Protesters join calls to save Wembley Ambulance Station and others earmarked for closure
- Credit: Archant
Protesters have joined calls for the closure of Wembley Ambulance Station (WAS) to be paused to allow for a proper consultation with the public and stakeholders.
Brent Trades Council (BTC) has launched a petition aimed at Garrett Emerson, chief executive of London Ambulance Service (LAS) NHS Trust, calling for the station in Chaplin Road, Wembley, to remain open.
Protesters were out in Kenton on Friday, November 27, where WAS services have been deployed since March, alerting the public to the changes.
Mary Adossides, chair of BTC, said: “This is a borough-wide campaign to keep all stations open, starting with Wembley, but our hope is decreasing rapidly.”
According to LAS, the lease for the site ends at the end of the financial year, but it has been asked to vacate by NHS Property Services (NHSPS), and will do so on December 1.
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The LAS said the 45-year-old station is “not fit for purpose”, was damaged by widespread flooding this year amid the pandemic, is among its “smallest sites” and would “regularly have two members of staff on a single ambulance starting and finishing their shift at Wembley”.
A spokesperson added: “Vacating WAS will see no impact upon our operational delivery. Since staff moved from Wembley to Kenton in March, we have also increased staffing levels across the borough and with no adverse impact on the care provided to the communities in Brent.”
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They said the LAS Estates Vision presented to its board in 2019 recognised there “needed to be a strategic overhaul of our estate”.
“This means, over time, replacing much of our existing buildings, some of which date back to the Victorian era. These buildings are manifestly unfit for a modern ambulance service requiring state-of-the-art, sustainable stations with high-quality facilities for ambulance crews.”
An NHSPS spokesperson added: “As a government-owned company, NHSPS and local health officials are keen to improve and enhance healthcare provision in north west London. Any development we undertake always has the clinical service it provides at its heart, ensuring we deliver on our purpose of enabling excellent patient care.
“To suggest otherwise is simply incorrect.
“In relation to Wembley, some of the older buildings to the east of the site have been vacated and declared surplus by Brent Clinical Commissioning Group. The land on which they sit will be disposed of and the entirety of the sale receipt will be reinvested directly into the NHS.
“These funds will provide additional support during these challenging times.”
BTC secretary Roger Cox said: “You see what the government is doing, applauding the NHS in one way then attacking it and using it to transfer vast amounts of money to their mates.
“Establishing a central depot is a route to privatising the ambulance service.”
Jonathan Fluxman, a retired GP working for the Covid-19 111 service who attended the protest, said: “It’s complete nonsense to close an ambulance station in the middle of a pandemic.
“I know exactly what it’s like to take a patient who is sick and need help from a paramedic colleague, willing that the patient doesn’t worry because they are afraid the ambulance won’t come.
“Residents in Brent were the worst affected in the country for Covid, so facing ambulance station closures is nonsensical.”
Joe Bastable, 20, added: “We can’t just watch our public services be gutted in front of us and not do anything.”
Demonstrator Jess Duggan warned: “The effects will be catastrophic.”
While Padraic Finn, a delegate of the University College Union, said: “It seems incredible they are closing ambulance stations at a time like this.
“Selling off the site in Wembley, to what appears to be a developer, seems to be what’s driving it instead of looking at the needs of the local population.
“It’s obviously a huge reorganisation which they are doing for financial reasons primarily.
“When they centralise it, it will be ripe for privatisation.”
Brent Council’s community and wellbeing scrutiny committee met on November 24 to discuss the station’s closure, recommending it be paused.
Plans for the station are understood to be part of a wider plan of closures including Greenford, Ruislip and Hayes - along with the creation of “super stations”, beginning with Romford.
Unison representative Anthony Smyth wrote that the trust plans to “consolidate” its estate from 68 stations to 19.
To sign the petition visit https://forms.gle/Kpjx75orTY5MX9BD8