Petition on Ludlow Ambulance hub receives unanimous support from Shropshire Councillors

Petition on Ludlow Ambulance hub receives unanimous support from Shropshire Councillors

On Thursday, Shropshire Council debated a petition from Ludlow resident Darren Childs.

The petition requests that the Council support our campaign in returning an ambulance hub back in Ludlow, South Shropshire or the return of local rapid response vehicles who can be on call or based at local areas like Ludlow hospital, GP surgery, fire station, to attend until an ambulance arrives.

Councillors debated the petition for longer than the allocated time of 15 minutes and concluded by unanimously supporting it.

Key points made by councillors during the discussion were:

  • All the rural ambulance hubs should be reinstated
  • Scrutiny had failed to address the problem and even had failed to meet
  • A select committee should be set up by the council to review the ambulance crisis
  • Ambulance performance should be measured by postcode
  • The council should declare that it has no confidence in the management of the local NHS.

A full transcript of the debate is below.

Darren Childs

Petitioner.

Darren Childs

My name is Darren Childs and I am from Ludlow in South Shropshire. Until a few weeks ago, I like most people assumed that in an emergency, you dial 999. Within a reasonable time, paramedics would be there and an ambulance would be with you. Unfortunately, I now know this is not the case. And although that’s how it should work, it doesn’t. My little girl, who is 12 months old, had a seizure on the 14th of January that lasted for 15 minutes. During that time, she stopped breathing. She was unresponsive, her eyes rolled back in her head. She went blue and then she went grey. We knew at that point that we needed emergency help straightaway. There was no ambulance in Shropshire when we needed one and there were no rapid response vehicles either. Thank goodness, we were able to get her breathing again. She could easily have died. There are currently from what we can see two problems. There’s a big problem within the hospitals themselves. When A&E gets full there isn’t enough beds, patients can’t get discharged because the community services have been cut and social care is broken. And the whole system is on its knees. The ambulances are off the road because they’re stuck on queues outside A&E in Shrewsbury and Telford. I think that this council should be on this like a rash. We need proper funding infrastructure. We need MPs to wake up the council and counsellors to scream from the rooftops as people in our area, your friends and your family have been placed at risk and it is our lives on the line. There is a second problem and I know it is bad for everybody in the whole country. But for the people in Ludlow, Bridgnorth, Church Stretton, Craven Arms, Bishop’s Castle and Oswestry, on top of that, you can add another 45 minute wait on top of the shortages we already have. And that’s simply because West Midlands Ambulance Service have closed the ambulance hub in Ludlow in 2018, got rid of the rapid response vehicles, and then came along and closed the other four rural ambulance stations last year, despite paramedics, GPS and others warning them of the impact that this would have on wait times and the quality of care that could be available in rural South Shropshire. If you want an ambulance in Ludlow, it’s going to come from Shrewsbury or Telford, if you’re lucky, as our little girl’s ambulance had to come from the other side of Hereford. And there were no beds and a long wait up over four hours to be seen in A&E. So, she was taken to Hereford Hospital where she was seen straightaway. The locations are for Shrewsbury and Telford are far too far away. And it means that by the time the ambulance gets to you and you get back, the chances are you are highly likely to die in an emergency when you need them. Your postcode should not decide if you live or die in structure. Please take this onboard in the scrutiny committee and your health and wellbeing board and put demands on health bosses in Shropshire and talk to local MPs. We need rural ambulances, rapid response vehicles and rural healthcare back in rural South Shropshire. The bottom line is that a life in Ludlow, Church Stretton, Craven Arms and Oswestry are the same value as those in Shrewsbury and in Telford. But at the moment, it feels like nobody’s listening and nobody’s doing anything about it, which is why I’m here and will not really go away until this is put right. We have a petition to return the ambulance hubs and rapid response vehicles to Ludlow to cover South Shropshire. We now have almost 4000 signatures which is still raising daily. So please can I ask that the council help us and support us with this campaign and help save the lives back in Shropshire?

[Applause]

Councillor Vince Hunt

Conservative, Llanymynech. Chair of Council.

Vince Hunt

Thank you. First of all, as you can hear from that [applause] there is absolute sympathy with you. No parent wishes to go through it. My son had a brain haemorrhage when he was 15 and has had multiple seizures since. So, I completely understand.

Councillor Dean Carroll

Conservative, Battlefield.

Dean Carroll

Mr. Child’s account is absolutely harrowing. And I can’t imagine what it must be like for any parent to have to experience that. I think we should absolutely support the petition but actually go further than the aims of this petition to campaign for the return of the ambulance hub to Ludlow but to extend that to campaigning not only for the ambulance hub in Ludlow to return but for the four ambulance hubs that were closed unilaterally by West Midlands Ambulance Service last year in Bridgenorth, Craven Arms, Oswestry and Market Drayton to also be reopened. The problem that we have, and this is a problem that we discussed at the last Council meeting when we bought a motion to seek to break from the urban centric West Midlands Ambulance Service. We have an ambulance service that neither understands, nor is particularly interested in my opinion, in the needs of a large rural county, like Shropshire. So, I absolutely think that we should be supporting this motion. And I hope that the portfolio holder will also take on board in summing up that we should be looking at not just the Ludlow hub, but the other four that I’ve mentioned that have been closed.

Councillor Tracy Huffer

Lib Dem, Ludlow East

Tracey Huffer

Obviously, I wholly support this petition. The game of Russian Roulette is actually being played out in Ludlow with people’s lives and health outcomes are being compromised by a failing ambulance service. People are actually dying waiting too long for an ambulance. Heartbreaking evidence is received on a daily basis of people waiting for unacceptable time. Nine hours for an elderly, frail woman with a broken leg. I recently heard a heartbreaking story of a relative, a mother and son, administering CPR to a father. They called a Category 1 ambulance and they waited too long. They carried on doing CPR for seven hours, not actually realising, there was no one there with them, that their father had passed away probably four hours previous to carrying on doing that. This is shocking, it’s heartbreaking and it shouldn’t be happening. And I could go on and on. We have GPs continuously leaving their practices because they have to go out to assist because ambulances are taking too long. That’s taking them away from their patients. That shouldn’t be happening. 111 is taking an hour and a half to answer. Patients waiting for up to nine hours for an ambulance. Massive delays at A&E. Ambulances queuing for hours. Longest recently nine hours outside Shrewsbury Hospital. Elderly, frail people being too afraid to complain because they fear of repercussions if they need to call an ambulance again. For me, I think the most one singly concerning and disgraceful thing is West Midlands Ambulance Service and telling people to take themselves to A&E, or to take a person that’s in need of health care. Taking them up the A49 where they could actually die on the side of the road. For me, that is the worst thing I’ve heard in all my 40 years of working in the NHS. We were once the envy of the world with our health service provision, the ambulance service position, the NHS in general. But at the moment it feels no better than a third world provision that we’re receiving from West Midlands Ambulance Service and I’m disgusted. But what is the real issue here. The issue is very clearly accepting patients into A&E and getting those that need it into beds. That comes down to staffing and processes. We cannot solve the problems in Ludlow and other rural areas without solving the problems at the centre of the health operation in Shropshire. But we are not getting answers from SaTH and we’re not getting answers from West Midlands Ambulance Service. We when we are not getting answers, clearly Shropshire Council has a responsibility to examine what is happening through our scrutiny process. We should set up an inquiry, a select committee. Not a task and finish that doesn’t really minute anything and is starved of provision and support. And we should set up an inquiry, a select committee, to get answers from the hospital trust, from the ambulance trust and to hear views from across the county such as those Darren has expressed today. This would be a powerful statement from Shropshire Council that is not a passive player when the health service in our country is struggling and is failing to deliver services that we need.

Councillor Ruth Houghton

Lib Dem, Bishop’s Castle.

Ruth Houghton

I fully support this petition. In the last two months I’ve had three, at least three, recent examples in the local division of Bishops Castle. Two heart attacks where one waited two hours and another three hours. Fortunately, they survived. An older person who had fallen had waited 10 hours and sadly passed away the next day in hospital. There are so many examples affecting people of all ages in our communities. It is not good enough and should not be happening. We urgently need a local rapid response service and local ambulance stations to serve our communities.

Councillor Heather Kidd

Lib Dem, Chirbury and Worthen.

Heather Kidd

I have long raised this particular issue certainly across the south west where we have never had a single target ever met. My division never even in good times gets an ambulance within about 40 minutes. This is just not acceptable. And when I was once told on Radio Shropshire by a senior member of the ambulance service that actually there weren’t enough people living there so we didn’t matter. My response was, so we die slower, do we? We have to move this on. I’ve been doing this for 10 years or more. This cannot be right. When my daughter had a severe asthma attack and her daughter came back from hospital where she was working at Gobowen, looked at her and said her SATS are awful and she’d gone blue. We were waiting at that point for a Shrewsbury ambulance that was going to arrive in 45 minutes. They were good. They were telling us how long it was going to take. The air ambulance from Gloucester arrived sooner than the terrestrial ambulance. We cannot carry on with this because actually the service has now got significantly worse. It’s now routine for people to be waiting hours on end. It’s routine for ambulances to be stacked at the Royal Shrewsbury. My colleagues and I went there about three weeks ago on a Tuesday afternoon. No particular huge health issue going on. Ten ambulances stacked waiting to unload. When my daughter was giving birth in Telford last October, there were 17 ambulances stacked outside at the PRH. Those ambulances are more ambulances than we have in Shropshire. We have 12. So actually, not only are we stopping our ambulances from picking up people, but we’re stopping everybody else’s ambulances from picking up people. We really have to deal with this. And I am appalled that the scrutiny committees that should be looking after this have been cancelled. They have been cancelled all the way through January when actually this was really, really important that we were holding people to account. Before Christmas, we actually asked for the winter action plan so that we could see how we were going to be doing all of this and how we were going to be turning around those ambulances. There are important questions that have never been answered. Such as, are you a 24/7 hospital. No, they’re not. My daughter had to wait from Friday to the following Tuesday for a kidney scan for her baby when he was born because there was nobody on duty over the weekend. And they didn’t come in until the following Tuesday. It is the whole of our health service is now letting us down. And it’s time that actually this council did more. I tried to get more done in my motion that I put to council last time and actually it was completely turned on its head. These things are vital if we’re going to get any of the health services that we not only require, but actually we deserve and pay for. So, this needs to be supported absolutely. But an awful lot more needs to be supported and we need to have robust scrutiny in the future.

Councillor Julian Dean

Green, Porthill.

Julian Dean

It just feels like we have an NHS a national crisis when we have a local NHS in complete and utter meltdown. We have an ambulance service which is collapsing. We know that we have a maternity service which is still you know in complete crisis and is a horror. We know that the senior management in the local NHS seem to have broken all the rules when they close Bishop’s Castle hospital. Across the board, they are in crisis. My only thought is that you know in London when we had a Met Police in crisis, the Mayor of London withdrew confidence from the leader of the Met Police and she went. It feels to me like we are at a stage. I don’t know if we can what effect we can have. But it feels to me that our administration rather than talking nicely now needs to declare no confidence in the management of the NHS in this area.

Councillor Kirstie Hurst-Knight

Conservative, Bridgnorth East and Astley Abbotts.

Kirstie Hurst-Knight

I’m not going to sit here and try and imagine the agony of waiting for medical help when your child is in that need. I have been a medic as you know for many years previously. And the look of elation and hope when you do arrive on the scene, you know cannot be underestimated. I cannot imagine waiting for hours at that time and I just want to praise Darren for all his efforts and everything that he’s done. I do feel that it is the right time, with the momentum on the back of the healthy debate we had from the motion brought forward by Councillor Heather Kidd. We have moved on with the health and wellbeing board. we’ve pressed [WMAS]. They are no partner and they’re going to come to future meetings. Yes, more needs to be done. I wholeheartedly support the motion. And echo Councillor Carrols comments. We don’t just need to reinstate this in Ludlow. But other ambulance hubs across in what is a really complex rural county.

Councillor Roy Alcroft

Conservative, Market Drayton East.

Roy Aldcroft

This is also about resources as you already mentioned. The idea of the hubs is to get a building where ambulances come into, but most of those hubs are empty most of the time because the ambulances are out and about doing what ambulances do. So, without the necessary increase of resources to leave ambulances in such places in a hub as at Ludlow, once it’s gone it’s gone. It’s probably at the top end of the county or in the West Midlands somewhere. So what ideally we need is maybe to look at the number of hubs there are for Shropshire, but certainly an increase in the resources we have, the volunteers we have, to operate a response service, and obviously, more ambulances. And that’s just looking at this specific issue, not the wider issue of the health service in Shropshire.

Councillor Julia Buckley

Labour, Bridgnorth East and Tasley.

Julia Buckley

I also welcome the petition. And we should thank Darren Childs and all those who have signed this petition and brought it to council for our attention because we haven’t tackled it and it needs to stay on the agenda until we have found a way to take this forward. Obviously on behalf of Bridgnorth, I would concur that the issues are across the rural periphery and those five hubs that we have mentioned. Over 70% of our Shropshire taxpayers live in the other 16 rural market towns and villages so we need to be thinking about the majority of our residents who are out in the rural areas and who are on average nine years older. So are much more likely to require these services. So, I would like us when we move this forward, hopefully to the scrutiny that’s been requested, I hope that we will look at broadening the question that we examine. So just as Dean Carroll suggested, we look at the five rural hubs and not just Ludlow. I’d like us also, as Tracy Huffer mentioned, to examine the resourcing going into the triage at A&E, which is currently blocking our ambulances and preventing them from behaving like ambulances. Until we have the twin track approach, we’re just passing the problem from one side to the other. But the third issue which Dean Carroll touched upon, goes to the heart of why this is not taken seriously by the West Midlands Ambulance Service. While ever the service is measured across the entire region, there’s not only no incentive to serve the rural areas but we are a burden to those statistics. We must request that statistics and targets are measured by postcode so that we can expose the worst areas and that that becomes the measure by which funding is allocated. We cannot continue as the burden that nobody wants to resolve. So, thank you again for bringing this to our attention. And let us not take it off the agenda until we are all satisfied that progress has been made.

Councillor Simon Jones

Conservative, Shawbury. Portfolio Holder Adult Social Care and Public Health.

Simon Jones

As portfolio holder for public health. I wish to thank Darren for presenting his petition and also members for the discussion that we’ve just had to which I have listened to carefully.

The council has and is taking action with respect to the West Midlands Ambulance Service closure of ambulance hubs in Shropshire, both through the Health and Adult Services Overview Scrutiny Committee and the Health and Wellbeing board. As portfolio holder for adult social care and public health. In response to this petition, I move that the council take the action requested in the petition and formally support the petitioner’s campaign and continue with our actions to require West Midlands Ambulance Service to reopen the hubs previously closed. I so move.

Councillor Vince Hunt

Thank you. So, the recommendation is to take the action requested in the petition. All those in favour please show. I think that’s unanimous. Any abstentions or against. No. Unanimous. Thank you very much Mr. Childs. Thank you, members.

2 thoughts on “Petition on Ludlow Ambulance hub receives unanimous support from Shropshire Councillors

  1. This is great news. Well done to Darren Childs for acting with determination to bring about change after the near death of his child.

  2. Oswestry’s ambulances were parked outside a very busy Cambrian Medical Centre. Not an empty building so no excuse there.

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