Ambulance service denies change in the service will mean a cut in cover
CLAIMS lives will be put at risk over changes to the Cotswold's ambulance cover have been denied.
A merger of the Great Western Ambulance Service and the South West operation was completed last month in a bid to become more efficient.
But ambulance bosses said the change in service was not a cost-cutting measure, despite the introduction of patient support vehicles, saving around £350,000 a year.
The service insisted it was not a reduction in service, but would ensure paramedics were available to respond to more 999 calls.
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A spokesman for the South Western Ambulance Service Foundation Trust said: "The decision to develop patient support vehicles has been carried out with full consultation with staff. It is about increasing the availability of paramedics to respond to patients, in a more cost-effective way. We believe the use of a patient support vehicle will also improve the service to those patients needing it, as it will be a dedicated resource, rather than waiting for a frontline emergency vehicle to become available, which can prove challenging during busy periods.
"The introduction of patient support vehicles will not mean we employ fewer paramedics – but they will be more available to respond to emergencies where their clinical skills can make a real difference to patients."
Cirencester will be one of the towns hit by the changes in June, with some staff fearing a reduction in paramedic services will have a wider impact on the region.
The town's MP Geoffrey Clifton-Brown has criticised the move.
One anonymous paramedic claimed the changes would see the eight-man Cirencester team of paramedics on the 12-hour vehicle reduced to just five. Cirencester currently provides two paramedic vehicles, one 24-hour and one 12-hour, operating from 8am to 8pm, seven days a week.
There is also a 24-hour Emergency Care Practitioner car operating every day.
Mr Clifton-Brown said: "I have had a long campaign against ambulance service mergers, warning that patients' lives could be put at risk.
"Sadly this potentially disastrous cut in services in Cirencester looks like a dreadful repeat of what happened when the GWAS merger occurred."