Fears over 999 services in South Lakeland

CUTS to the North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) could affect cover in South Lakeland and Eden, a union representative has warned.

The NWAS must save £14 million across the region and plans to remove both an ambulance at Carlisle and a rapid response vehicle at Penrith at night – which it is claimed will put pressure on services elsewhere in the county.

“Reducing the number of ambulances by a third in Carlisle, from three to two, is a terrible idea,” said Cumbrian paramedic Mike Oliver, who represents Unison in Lancashire and Cumbria.

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“They’re struggling to meet demand with current resources, so reducing the service even further seems madness to me.

“There only needs to be one occasion when an ambulance from the north of the county has to go to Middlesborough, and it’s game over – if there’s another emergency the service will just not be able to cope. This will have a knock-on effect in places like Brough, Penrith and in the south of the county.”

Mr Oliver said that the service in the north of the county already struggled to meet targets – making 65.5 per cent of calls within eight minutes instead of the guideline 75 per cent, and staff regularly skip meals to stay on the road.

A spokesman for union GMB also hit out at the announcement, saying ‘all sections of NWAS are to face cutbacks irrespective of whether it impacts on patient services or not’.

Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron added that it could be ‘life-threatening’ for South Lakeland residents.

“I am worried about the implications of these plans for residents in South Lakeland as I believe we could be left with less cover,” he said.

Alan Stuttard, deputy chief executive and director of finance for NWAS, said: “In an increasingly chal-lenging financial environ-ment, we need to look at how efficiencies can be made. Our priority is and will always be patient care.”

NWAS bosses will now meet union representatives.

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