There are fears that planned cuts to ambulance cover in the upper Calder Valley could have a dangerous impact.
Todmorden Ambulance Station, which currently serves Todmorden, Hebden Bridge and Mytholmroyd, remote hill farms along the valley, plus the borders with Rochdale, Bacup and Lancashire, has one double-crewed ambulance on call 24-hours a day, plus two rapid response vehicles. The two rapid response vehicles are in action seven days a week from 6am until 12am, with overlapping shifts to ensure there is cover at peak periods.
But there are claims a shake-up of services could see the number of response vehicles reduced to just one, with the vehicle only working office hours from Monday to Friday.
A Todmorden-based paramedic slammed the plans as “dangerous” over fears there there would be no cover at night, or early morning or weekends if te station’s ambulance is out.
“It will have a massive impact. What normally happens is the ambulance based in Todmorden goes to Halifax and won’t come back as it gets caught up in work there, which leaves two cars,” the paramedic said.
“I work all the time in one of the cars and when I get an emergency call, I go and deal with it and stay with the patient until we are backed up by an ambulance, which can sometimes take two hours.
“As there would only be one response car covering Monday to Friday office hours, at all other times, if the ambulance is out, everyone in the areas we cover would have to wait for an ambulance to come from another area.
“The closest would be Halifax, if one is available, but I have waited with a patient for more than two hours for an ambulance to arrive from Bradford or Keighley.”
The paramedic added: “Hebden Bridge and Todmorden have the worse response times and cuts are going to put further lives at risk. It’s just a ridiculous state of affairs.”
Concerns have also been raised that staff based in Todmorden would be forced to work in Halifax.
A spokeswoman for UNISON Yorkshire Ambulance Branch said: “As a branch we are concerned about any reduction to rural cover, as once the ambulance leaves the area with a patient, at times, it will leave Todmorden devoid of cover, relying on an ambulance coming from further afield. This is far from ideal in a life threatening emergency situation.
“The unions are continuing to work with the trust management to try and resolve these issues and look at ways of maintaining cover to rural communities. We are still hopeful a compromise can be found.
“We talk about response times and life-threatening emergency situations on a daily basis but at the end of the day for every call made to the ambulance service there is a patient or someone’s relative needing help.
“We want to try and ensure everyone has equal access to emergency ambulances and response cars. There is a high level of demand in towns and cities, and there is no argument of the level of cover required in these areas but we cannot forget our members who work within rural communities, most live within the area they serve and want to see emergency cover maintained in order to respond effectively.”
In response to the claims, the Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust said any changes made would follow discussions and consultation.
A spokesperson said: “We are always looking to improve the services we provide to patients and are constantly reviewing our resources to ensure that our staff and vehicles are in the right place at the right time to respond to patients needing our assistance.
“We are currently making a significant investment in frontline services which will see over 200 extra staff across the region.
“As part of this we are also reviewing where our staff are based to ensure we provide the best service for our patients and any proposed changes to our services will always follow appropriate engagement and consultation with staff, local communities, commissioners and our partners.
“We remain committed to providing a safe, high quality service for the people of Yorkshire.”