Public meetings to be held in Gwynedd on future of air ambulance bases
Two public meetings have been organised to allow people living in parts of Gwynedd to have their say on plans to centralise the Wales Air Ambulance Service.
It follows the Wales Air Ambulance charity revealing in August that an air ambulance base could be closed in Powys and moved to north Wales after an analysis showed lifesaving helicopters could attend hundreds more missions across Wales every year.
It said data modelling suggested the most beneficial and efficient service delivery model for Wales would be to move the Welshpool crews – including aircraft and rapid response vehicles – and co-locate them in north Wales.
The charity said the location in north Wales is “subject to further analysis” but local politicians have claimed it is likely to be in the north-east of the region.
It has left them fearful that emergency medical service coverage in rural parts of the north-west could suffer as a result.
The meetings in Tywyn and Pwllheli are being organised by Plaid Cymru’s Senedd for Dwyfor Meirionnydd Member Mabon ap Gwynfor and Member of Parliament Liz Saville Roberts.
It will provide an opportunity for them to listen to what campaigners and local people have to say and highlight the questions that require answering by decision makers.
Speakers at the meetings will include Mr ap Gwynfor, Ms Saville Roberts, Andy O’Regan from the ‘Save Our Bases’ campaign, Powys County Councillor Elwyn Vaughan, Tom Brooks from the Community Health Council and others.
Commenting ahead of the meetings, Mr ap Gwynfor and Ms Saville Roberts said: “These series of public meetings have been arranged to provide people living in far-to-reach areas of south Meirionnydd and Pen Llŷn with an opportunity to have their say on plans to centralise the Wales Air Ambulance service, likely to be in the northeast.
“Timely access to emergency medical assistance in these rural areas is already compromised by the lack of sufficient ambulance cover.
“We share the widespread concern expressed by our Dwyfor Meirionnydd constituents at the potential implications of moving this lifesaving service further away from our communities.
“Many important questions remain unanswered and there is doubt as to the reliability of the data being used to underpin these decisions. It has not yet been published despite repeated calls for it to be available for public scrutiny.
“Will this new arrangement strengthen safe emergency service cover to deal with health emergency calls in rural Gwynedd, and has Wales Air Ambulance sufficiently factored in the performance of the Welsh Ambulance Service into their decision-making process?
“These are all questions that demand answers. We hope these meetings will be an opportunity for local people to make their views known, and which will help inform us as local representatives as we do our best to urge Wales Air Ambulance to review their decision.
“The Wales Air Ambulance charity has proven itself time and again to be invaluable to our communities. We are fervent supporters of the service, and as critical friends we aim to make sure that the correct decision is made in the interests of the people we represent.”
The meetings will take place on Thursday, November 24 at 7pm at Neuadd Pendre in Tywyn and Friday, November 25 at 7pm at Ysgol Glan y Mor in Pwllheli.
Andy O’Regan from the ‘Save Our Bases’ campaign group said: “We are holding these meetings to gauge public feeling and concerns over this proposal to close our bases and reduce a vital lifeline to our isolated communities.’
“We cannot let this happen, and we require a thorough, transparent and open public consultation into this matter to be heard in the Senedd.”
Explaining the proposed shake-up back in August, Dr Sue Barnes, the air ambulance charity’s chief executive, said: “There is strong evidence that says the whole of north Wales, as well as every other part of Wales, will benefit from the proposed changes.
“We now operate via road as well as air. This is vital when aircraft are grounded for technical reasons or when flying conditions are poor.
“Current locations mean that patients in north and mid Wales suffer from a lack of this alternative provision as a result of poor road access – unlike their counterparts in south Wales.
“Also, our current aviation contract is up for renewal, presenting us with a once-in-a-decade opportunity to look at our current service provision.
“Any service enhancements identified would need to be included as a part of the contract with the successful bidder.
“Due to the current increase in the cost of goods and services, we are expecting a 30% increase in aviation costs, so it’s more important than ever that we are using public donations in the most efficient and effective way possible.”
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