Posted: Mon 5th Dec 2022

Gwynedd councillors pledge to help safeguard ‘vital’ air ambulance service

North Wales news and information
This article is old - Published: Monday, Dec 5th, 2022

A Gwynedd councillor and former ambulance man of 20 years has shared personal recollections of how a child almost died had it not been for the swift arrival of the air ambulance. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

Tywyn representative John Pughe was speaking following a notice of motion tabled by his colleague Llio Elenid Owen calling to safeguard the “vital” service. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

Cllr Owen called for support for the Wales Air Ambulance service (WAA) during Cyngor Gwynedd’s full council meeting on Thursday (December 1.) ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

It follows concerns that the lifesaving service with bases at Dinas Dinlle and Welshpool could move to Rhuddlan or elsewhere in the north-east of Wales. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

During her address, the Groeslon councillor had described the service’s “great and critical, key work.” ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

She said many rural communities were “completely dependent” on the service in an emergency. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

Fearing the move could result in a longer waits for urgent care in some areas, she raised concerns at the “risk to loss of life” in Gwynedd. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

She also questioned the reliability of data suggesting the service would meet a higher demand, possibly 580 call outs a year, if it moved. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

The motion stated: “The Wales Air Ambulance (WAA) is a vital emergency medical service, and it is totally essential for the residents of Gwynedd. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

“Closing their existing sites at Dinas Dinlle and Welshpool and centralising it in north-east Wales will slow down the emergency response to the furthest and most difficult to reach areas. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

“This is extremely concerning for our residents here in Gwynedd. This will also mean that another exceptionally important service is moving from north-west Wales to the north-east, to the detriment of our rural communities. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

“The rural nature and secluded roads of our areas here in Gwynedd means that saving lives is challenging and relocating the WAA will make this an even greater challenge. This invaluable service must be safeguarded. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

“I therefore propose that Cyngor Gwynedd calls on the Wales Air Ambulance and relevant bodies to keep the centres at Dinas Dinlle and Welshpool and build on the services in their current locations.” ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

Her proposal was seconded by Cllr Elfed Williams and gained a swathe of support from councillors. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

During the debate, Cllr John Pughe said he was “fully supportive” of retaining the Caernarfon and Welsh air ambulance bases. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

He said: “I worked for 20 years on the ambulance service, and I am fully aware of the distances we had to travel. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

“In this day and age ambulances are waiting three to six hours for an ambulance to come to an emergency. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

“So it is very, very important that these air ambulances are still able to cover us as they do now. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

“There are many things I can tell you about the ambulance service, in one situation, a small child had swallowed something, in another half-hour that child would have been dead. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

“That time, the ambulance from Welshpool covered us, we need the support of these bases, if they want more cover to Rhuddlan or Hawarden there is plenty of money, businesses that could sponsor them and then we’d all be covered. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

“We are in a very rural area. We have had three or four drownings in the Tywyn area. Yes, the coastguard can turn out as well, but the air ambulance is quicker.” ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

Cllr Delyth Lloyd Griffiths said the loss of the service from the area was “serious” for everyone in Gwynedd but especially so for people in the rural south Meirionnydd area. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

Cllr Beth Lawton added: “If we lose this service in south Meirionnydd, we will lose this service, we will lose lives.” ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

Council leader Cllr Dyfrig Siencyn agreed the service was “vital for the rural areas and far-flung areas, in north and mid Wales.” ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

He said a meeting had been held by the council, and it was understood that the situation was “not totally in the hands of the air ambulance itself.” ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

He added there was “a real need to establish the facts, to get the data out clearly and assess the situation.” ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

The council leader said he had told the air ambulance charity that the authority was ready to assist at any time. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

In a vote, the council unanimously supported the motion, with 38 councillors in favour and no objections or abstentions. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

By Dale Spridgeon – Local Democracy Reporter ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

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