Closing ambulance call centre 'will damage patient care'By Laura Herbert
May 21, 2012
Closing Wokingham’s ambulance call centre will affect patient care, says a member of the service.
South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS) NHS Foundation Trust has announced the emergency control centre (EOC) will close in July.
Its staff, including IT teams, will relocate to the service’s headquarters in Bicester, Oxfordshire.
The decision to close the control centre in Finchampstead Road was announced on May 8.
An operational member of the ambulance service, who is not based in Wokingham and wishes to remain anonymous, said: “It was expected, but the vast majority of people have been saying it is the worst decision SCAS has made. It will damage patient care.
“It is a situation where the work and the demand on the service has gone up and resources have stayed the same or have decreased.”
The centre is one of three clinical support desks and helps deal with more than 1,000 calls a day, but only 29 per cent are potentially life-threatening, according to the trust.
The centres are staffed by nurses and senior paramedics who assess patients over the phone, and those who don’t need hospital treatment are offered alternative options.
Staff may arrange for a GP or social worker to give simple first aid advice, or refer a patient to a walk-in centre or pharmacy.
The man continued: “Over the last year or so there has been quite significant waiting times for people telephoning the line.
“When someone calls 999 in Berkshire you would get through to a control centre in Berkshire, but over the last year or so they have been doing virtual call centres so the call might be picked up in Hampshire or Bicester.”
The employee said the local knowledge the area staff have is essential when dealing with a potentially life-threatening call.
A Facebook group called Save Berkshire Ambulance HQ and 999 Call Centre has been set up.
The man added: “Every second counts and I think when you have people who are happy in the job, they are going to be focused. If you are in a position where you feel you are valued you are going to work hard in your job.
“I think the problem with targets has been hanging over people’s shoulders rather than encouraging them.
“Many people in the service are thinking of leaving and going to the private sector as morale is so low and people are unhappy.
“It hasn’t affected patient care, but it will do.”
A spokesman for SCAS said: “This action will improve resilience and enhance our call taking and clinical assessment capability, enabling us to provide the best possible care for our patients into the future.
“There is a general move across England’s ambulance services to fewer, fit for purpose EOCs. Like all public sector organisations SCAS needs to make financial efficiencies whilst protecting frontline services and patient care.”
A GP out of hours service will continue to operate from the office for the time being.