Assurances on ambulances for Wooler district

Moves have been made to allay fears that ambulance crews were being ‘pulled’ out of the Wooler area to cover others in Berwick and further afield.

Thomas Birdsey, operations manager for the North of Tyne Division, spoke to Wooler parish councillors at their March meeting.

He stressed that while service controllers would move their units around, between Belford, Berwick and Wooler, there would never be an area left without cover.

Councillors initially raised fears that Wooler crews were being moved to cover Berwick teams’ meal breaks late last year.

That was raised again, with Coun Anthony Murray relaying similar concerns from Dr Charles Dean of Glendale Surgery.

Mr Birdsey acknowledged that, during the very busy period for ambulance crews between Christmas and New Year, which was known as ‘clinical escalation’, some crews had been moved in this way.

However, that practice had been stopped. He explained that the only reason for crews to be moved from their area now is to cover other ambulances who are responding to calls, or transporting patients to Wansbeck or Borders General Hospital.

“We cannot leave areas without cover,” he said.

Mr Birdsey said that the Wooler community paramedics were the most involved with their GP practice, compared to other areas. That is set to continue in what he described as a service-wide shift in place to further the skill sets of community paramedics.

He said the service was attempting to train up community paramedics in enhanced care.

“This is that little bit extra on top of normal ambulance work,” he said. “It’s about adding a few diagnostic skills to help keep people out of hospital and treat them at home.

“We’ve got quite a few people who have been through the course and we’re looking to get more through.”