Lives could be put at risk by plans to close dozens of the region’s ambulance stations, it was claimed today.
Bosses at Yorkshire Ambulance station are drawing up proposals for a major reorganisation, which would see many of the county’s existing 62 stations close.
Under the plans, 11 of those are earmarked for early closure, including stations in Seacroft and Menston in Leeds.
Today campaigners said they feared response times would be increased – and people’s lives could be placed in peril.
Maureen Idle from campaign group Leeds Hospital Alert said: “It is extremely worrying.
“I am sure it will have an impact on response times – particularly during rush hour.
“Minutes are vital and with heart attacks it makes all the difference. How often do you see the paramedics get there and crash patients to get them going again?
“I am sure it would cost lives ultimately.
“You can’t close a place and say services are going to be the same.”
It is thought that many of the existing ambulance stations could close under the ‘rationalisation programme’ – the current 62 stations would be replaced with 12 main centres.
Elsewhere crews would operate from standby points or from buildings shared with other emergency services.
Menston Parish councillor Gordon Metcalfe said: “We want assurances where the new station will be because most people would be worried about response times.
“There are a lot of elderly people in Menston.
“The A65 is heavily congested and trying to get to Menston at peak period times is very difficult.”
Worried Labour councillor for Cross Gates and Whinmoor, Coun Pauleen Grahame, added: “It’s all very well looking at centralising things but, like all the cuts, this is something that needs to be looked at very closely.
“There’s been a lot said about the fire service cuts but ambulances are just as vital.”
Managers claim the plans will reduce staff downtime and minimise resources tied up with land and property as well as speed up responses to patients, with savings and proceeds from site sales funnelled to frontline care.
Studies are under way to establish sites for new hub bases.
Rod Barnes, executive director of finance and performance at Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust, said: “Already adopted by some ambulance services in the country, the model would allow us to further improve the high quality services we provide to our patients, as well as give us an opportunity to enhance our current operating arrangements and facilities for staff.
“It would also help us to deliver effective cost reductions.
“We would like to reassure members of the public that any plans to change our estates configuration have patients’ interests at heart.”
The news comes after West Yorkshire Fire Service announced plans to axe 200 firefighter posts and close a string of stations.