‘The message is loud and clear: Stop the cuts!’

Protesters march against proposed ambulance cuts (w121024-1f)
Protesters march against proposed ambulance cuts (w121024-1f)

ANGER over proposed cuts to ambulance services in Worksop and Retford spilled onto the streets this week.

Protestors marched through town centres to spread the word about East Midlands Ambulance Service’s controversial proposals to close 66 ambulance stations, including the two in Bassetlaw.

Protesters march against proposed ambulance cuts, the procession arrives in the Old Market Square (w121024-1m)

Protesters march against proposed ambulance cuts, the procession arrives in the Old Market Square (w121024-1m)

The ambulance service’s Being The Best consultation was launched in September and runs until December.

It suggests that 13 ‘super hubs’ will be created across the East Midlands to maintain and clean ambulances, while 118 smaller ambulance posts and standby points would serve crews during their shifts.

Bassetlaw’s nearest hub would be at King’s Mill Hospital, near Mansfield.

The plans have been met with hostility in Bassetlaw, with EMAS bosses including chief executive Phil Milligan facing a barrage of criticism from the public.

“What Phil Milligan does not seem to realise is the vast rural geography of an area like Bassetlaw,” said EMAS Unison event organiser Emma Bardney.

“We are going to have patients who fall outside the window for life-saving treatment because they can not get to hospital quick enough.”

Emma and her Unison colleagues organised the marches through Worksop and Retford, which saw hundreds of people waving banners, chanting slogans and signing petitions.

Bassetlaw Council leader Coun Simon Greaves said: “Considering the weather there’s a great turn-out from the public of Worksop today.”

“On this important issue I think the message is getting through loud and clear to the public and importantly to the management of the ambulance service.”

“The proposals for the future of our ambulance stations in Bassetlaw are simply not acceptable.”

“And what amazes me is that the ambulance service management fully accept that what they are proposing for Bassetlaw is not as good as it should be.”

Coun Greaves said he hoped EMAS would reconsider their plans to close the ambulance stations, and work with the district and county councils towards a more suitable alternative.

As well as the union representatives and politicians, members of the Bassetlaw Save Our Services group were marching, along with members of the public.

Margaret Tonks, 67, from Worksop, said she wanted to come along and show her support for the campaign.

“We feel we are losing out here in Bassetlaw. We don’t mind change, but it’s got to be for the better and we are not convinced,” she said.

“Given the road conditions and the distance from Mansfield to Worksop it would be ludicrous for our ambulances to be based out there.”

Geoffrey Tonks, 74, added: “If they are going to close Worksop and Retford stations I think they should consider having one somewhere in between like Ranby.”

Margaret added: “We also want to know who is going to be responsible if people start losing their lives. I don’t think the chief executive has any idea. They have made their mind up and expect us to go along with it.”

Ambulance workers were also out in force on the marches, voicing their opposition to the planned closures.

Michael Fong, an emergency care assistant working from both Worksop and Retford ambulance stations, said he was also marching to preserve the service for him and his family.

“We are fighting to keep our stations open. Or we would accept some sort of facility located elsewhere in Bassetlaw,” he said.

“It’s vital because we believe it would be a second class service without those stations.”

l Find out more about the EMAS Being The Best consultation online at www.emas.nhs.uk, by emailing beingthebest@emas.nhs.uk or calling freephone 0800 917 9911.

l To Sign the online e-petition against the proposals at http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/36228