No further review for ambulance service hub plans

The Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP) chose not to give East Midlands Ambulance Service’s (EMAS) restructuring plans a full review, despite local concerns.

As previously reported, EMAS has plans to transform how ambulances within Lincolnshire respond to emergency calls.

There would be nine “super hubs”, plus 19 ambulance stations and 108 community ambulance stations.

However, Lincolnshire County Council’s Health Scrutiny Committee (HSC) were not satisfied with the plans, describing the consultation process as “flawed“.

The committee believed that the plans would not improve EMAS’s response times, that the consultation was inadequate, and that not enough financial information supported the proposals.

This led to the proposals being sent to the IRP for a full review to see if the matter needed to be escalated or dealt with locally.

Since, EMAS’ chief executive has resigned and the IRP has decided that the plans do not need a full review.

According to a letter from the chair of the IRP to the Secretary of State:

“The IRP offers its advice on a case-by-case basis taking account of the specific circumstances and issues of each referral. The Panel does not consider that a full review would add any value.

“Although this referral does not concern the merits of the proposals agreed by the EMAS Trust Board, the IRP notes the ongoing concerns of the Lincolnshire HSC with regard to EMAS’ response time performance.

“In this context, the Panel understands why the Trust should be seeking to make changes to address these concerns and further notes that similar estate changes have been successfully introduced by ambulance trusts elsewhere in the country.”

“Equally, the referral does not concern the merits of the public consultation conducted by EMAS.

“Nevertheless, the Panel agrees with the HSC that the consultation document provided little financial detail and that the precise numbers of particular types of facility proposed, described in seemingly inconsistent terminology, was difficult to follow.”

Reassurances

Despite disappointment in the IRP’s decision, Chairman of the Health Scrutiny Committee Councillor Christine Talbot feels that the council’s reasons for concern have at least been recognised.

She said: “I am disappointed that the issues we raised won’t be looked into further but the IRP have at least recognised there are problems with the performance of EMAS.

“I’m very pleased that the IRP believe the scrutiny committee had reason to have concerns over this, and that EMAS should provide further clarification to the HSC on how it expects improvements in performance to actually be achieved.

“It is also reassuring that the Panel agreed that the consultation document provided little financial detail, and commented that what was proposed was described in seemingly inconsistent terminology and was difficult to follow.

“We now need to look to future working with EMAS to get the best possible outcomes for Lincolnshire people from their ambulance service, and we’re committed to monitoring the changes and keeping this high on the agenda.”

A spokesperson for EMAS said: “In light of this judgement, we will now be pressing on with the planned reconfiguration of our estate holdings in Lincolnshire, alongside those taking place across our other divisions.

“We will also be working closely with the Lincolnshire HSC to provide them with the information they believed was lacking during the public consultation phase.

“It is to be hoped that this will lead to them having a better understanding of the pressures staff and the organisation are working under and why our Being the Best initiative will lead to improved levels of performance and patient satisfaction.”