Protesters march through Ripley in bid to save ambulance bases
CAMPAIGNERS hoping to save ambulance stations from closure received a shot in the arm when more than 100 people joined a march around Ripley.
East Midlands Ambulance Service wants to replace Derbyshire's 16 ambulance stations with two "super-centres" in Derby and Chesterfield, and a series of 30 standby points under its plan called Being the Best.
This would mean the closure of the ambulance station at Ripley. According to Unison, this would leave mid-Derbyshire without suitable emergency cover.
One campaigner said: "We are fighting to save the Ripley station but we also think that the north west of the county, in the Peak District, needs a station.
"We don't want to scare-monger but there is a very real chance of additional delays if these plans go ahead and, if lives are at stake, time could be crucial."
John McGrath, Unison spokesman for Derbyshire, was pleased with the turnout. He said: "We have to demonstrate how this plan will leave the Amber Valley area very exposed.
"There have been public consultation meetings in the north and south of the county but none in Amber Valley. We are not opposed to change but a reduction to two major centres is too much and there should be at least four."
Unison has also collected 10,000 signatures on a petition calling for the proposals to be changed.
Mr McGrath said: "The consultation period ends on December 17 and we plan to hand the petition over then but I understand the petition will also be going to Westminster on December 12 to help with campaigning.
"Marches are planned in Lincoln and Hinckley and we will carry on making our feelings known."
The marchers set out from Butterley Park on Saturday morning and stopped at the ambulance station before walking along Oxford Street and around the Market Place. There to greet them was Bolsover MP Dennis Skinner – a long-time campaigner for public services.
He said: "It's an outright scandal and should be opposed. This Government is crazy if it thinks it can use the NHS to make its cuts when millions of people rely on it. It would be outrageous to cut back to two stations. There is need for speed and two stations will not save people.
"This has been a wonderful march and has shown Ripley people you mean business."
East Midlands Ambulance Service has previously said it does not have the £13 million required to bring the stations up to NHS standards.
Chief executive Phil Milligan said: "We made a commitment to work closely with our staff and unions on our proposals.
"All feedback from our consultation exercise will be considered and, if the evidence is compelling, we will consider revising our proposals."
A consultation meeting has been organised at Green Bank Leisure Centre, Swadlincote, on Wednesday, December 5, from 6pm.