Ambulance chiefs are planning to cut ambulance stations, transport control rooms as well as ensuring it transports fewer people to hospital as part of measures to reduce waste.
The plans by West Midlands Ambulance Service Trust will see less stations and five non-emergency patient transport control rooms cut to two by February 2012 – but more lone community responders instead.
The trust said due to cuts in public spending, it will introduce schemes so 200,000 fewer patients, ten per cent less, are taken into A&E in the next five years.
This will include a new system to treat people over the phone at home.
Ambulance officials said the move will mean more cash directed at frontline services and have pledged that it will not affect staff numbers.
Trust chief executive Anthony Marsh said: “As we train our staff to ever higher levels, we are able to treat many more patients at home rather than have to transport them to hospital. Within five years we should be treating 200,000 more patients in settings other than hospitals where appropriate.”
A trust report stated: “The trust will reconfigure its estate into a smaller number of strategically located main ambulance stations. The trust will also rapidly increase the number of community response posts where crews can await calls.
“Some (staff) will be in the same location as current stations, others will be in new areas that are statistically closest to potential patients, thus improving response times. There is no reduction in the number of vehicles or staff in the area; in fact it is likely that they will increase.”
It comes weeks after the announcement that Leamington Spa emergency operations centre would be closed down with its 44 staff transferred to Stafford.
The organisation plans to also change its name to Midlands Emergency Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust with West Midlands Ambulance Service the emergency part of the business.
Ray Salmon, from the union Unison, said: “ We can understand the rational behind the plans but station closures could mean some staff having to travel further. We will be keeping a close eye on things.
“Jobs wise, we believe that workers in the ambulance service are among the safest in the health service at the moment.”
The move was revealed in a consultation document to ask the public to support the trust gaining foundation status, which will see it break free from Government control allowing members to have more say on how it is run.