Oswestry Town Council is being urged to join the fight against the impending closure of the town’s ambulance station.
It was confirmed today that West Midlands Ambulance Service (WMAS) intends to shut its community ambulance stations in Oswestry and Craven Arms on October 4, in a move the service says will free up more crew time for responding to emergencies.
The announcement has sparked widespread concern among people living in the affected areas, with more than 850 people joining an online campaign group in support of saving the Oswestry base in under 24 hours.
Town councillors are now being urged to add their backing to the efforts to fight the closure, and will discuss the matter at a meeting next week.
A motion by Councillor Jonathan Upton asks the town council to invite WMAS to an urgent meeting to explain the reasoning behind the proposed closure.
The motion reads: “Although recent press releases state that this station has little usage in comparison to other stations, the crews of 10 staff for the ambulance do use this base for administrative and rest purposes on a 24/7 basis, and the figures provided recently, highlighting approximately 21,000 call-outs in the first six months of 2021, suggest that this station is in high demand.
“WMAS regularly quote that they are meeting government guidelines on response times, but when the exact figures are unpicked, they actually show that the deadlines are met in urban areas (eg Telford) and are not met in rural areas (eg Oswestry).
“When the ambulance station at Morda Road was closed a few years back, we were promised in good faith by WMAS that we would not see a decline in service from them.
“However, as our waiting times are among the worst in the WMAS area, some people may see the loss of a permanent base in Oswestry as making the waiting times much worse.”
The service says closing the Oswestry base will not impact the number of ambulances available in the area, given that only a small fraction of incidents are responded to by crews normally based at the town’s station.
As all crews “go from one emergency to the next”, the service says it makes more sense to have them start and finish at one of the region’s hubs, with Shropshire’s being in Shrewsbury and Donnington.
However, Councillor Upton’s motion says the way to improve response times in the rural areas is to have more ambulance stations and not less.
He says WMAS should be asked to provide up-to-date response time figures and justify how the closures would improve local services.
The motion also asks the town clerk to write to parish councils in the area to seek their views and propose working together to co-ordinate a response.
Councillor Upton adds: “Finally, I live right across the road from the base, so I always see an ambulance there, ready for deployment across the whole of north Shropshire at a moment’s notice.
“If ambulances suddenly started travelling from Shrewsbury or Donnington on a regular basis, this would endanger the lives of someone in need of it who could, realistically, be in the next street to me.
“I appreciate we have a team of dedicated Community First Responders, but there’s only so much they can do themselves.”
The motion will be discussed at a meeting of the town council’s amenities committee next Wednesday at the Guildhall, starting at 7pm.