Lives put at risk – plans to withdraw Swanage & Purbeck’s Paramedic Car

A deep concern

Swanage is a vibrant and much loved town by the sea, surrounded by beautiful countryside. Hundreds of thousands of visitors every year have fond memories of its beaches, its festivals and its numerous attractions. It is home, too, to those whose families have lived there for generations, and for those who have moved there, attracted by its atmosphere and clean, salty, air.

Visitors and residents alike need the reassurance that if they fall ill, or have the misfortune to have an accident or fall, then emergency medical assistance will arrive promptly. It is a matter of deep concern, therefore, that despite reassurances, the South West Ambulance Services Trust plans to withdraw the Swanage and Purbeck Paramedic Car at the end of December.


Swanage & Purbeck’s Paramedic Car – now under threat


Risk to lives and health

Swanage was allocated the Paramedic Car in 2008, when Swanage Cottage Hospital’s Minor Injuries Unit was first closed overnight, in recognition of the distance to Poole Hospital. A journey there from Swanage means either using the Ferry, or a route the long way round – through winding, often congested, roads – through Corfe and then along the notorious Sandford bypass. Recently, the Paramedic Car attended 3 cardiac arrest cases in Swanage over a two-week period.

Too few ambulances

There is also a regular ambulance based in Swanage – but this is often out of Swanage – either taking a Swanage resident to hospital, a round trip of one and a half hours minimum, including transfer of the patient at Poole Hospital – called elsewhere due to there being too few ambulances to meet the needs of the county. The time the regular ambulance is out of Swanage will increase when A&E, Maternity and Paediatrics close at Poole, as the ambulance will have to go further – to Dorchester, or to Bournemouth Hospital. There are currently 1,400 emergency admissions from Swanage and local villages at Poole Hospital every year.

Unique role of the paramedic car

The Paramedic Car is stationed in Swanage, and covers wider Purbeck. It does not take patients to hospital, it remains in Purbeck, and the Car is a faster vehicle than an ambulance in terms of navigating our winding roads and lanes. For these reasons, the Paramedic car is usually the nearest available medical rapid response for Swanage and Purbeck.

It is a unique asset and an invaluable resource. The Car Paramedic:

  • Preserves life until the arrival of an ambulance
  • Treats the 50% of cases on the spot who don’t need to go to hospital
  • Provides overnight cover during the hours the Cottage Hospital Minor Injuries Unit is closed
  • Helps cover Purbeck GP home visits

A commitment not honoured

Following the planned loss of A&E, Maternity and Children’s Departments at Poole Hospital as a result of the Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group’s decision to merge that hospital with Royal Bournemouth Hospital, Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) made a commitment to Dorset Council Health Scrutiny Committee that Swanage would retain its existing ambulance resources, and that ambulance resources would be increased for outlying areas, such as Swanage and Purbeck. There is, therefore, no justification for taking away the Paramedic Car.

Campaigners fought long and hard against the decision to merge the two hospitals, taking the CCG to the High Court by Judicial Review and then appealing directly to the Secretary of State. Tens of thousands of Dorset residents signed the Petition against the loss of A&E and Maternity at Poole.

Evidence was produced by the Campaigners’ QC that residents and visitors in Swanage and Purbeck would not be able to reach the new A&E and Maternity Departments in Royal Bournemouth Hospital within the “Golden Hour”.

The CCG themselves told the court that up to 400 patients per year would be at increased clinical risk due to the longer journey times that the proposed merger would create.

We urge Dorset Council People and Health Scrutiny Committee to hold the CCG to account, and insist that, at an absolute minimum, the ambulance resources based at Swanage are not decreased. Dorset Council promised they would do this in March, but have not yet delivered on their promise, and time is running out.

Lives will be lost as a result of the Ambulance Trust’s decision to withdraw the Paramedic Car at the end of December  – the lives of Swanage and Purbeck residents and visitors.

COVID-19 will cast a yet more glaring light upon the need to increase ambulance resources for rural Dorset.

Sign the petition, to save the Paramedic Car, by clicking here.

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