News : Carmarthen Emergency Call Centre Could Move to Bridgend
Carmarthen, Wales, Feb 7, 2017 -- An ambulance call centre in Carmarthen could be closed and relocated to Bridgend.
The Welsh Ambulance Service Trust (WAST) has started what it calls an "engagement process" with staff over proposals which could see a move of the clinical contact centre from its current Llangunnor location – where 160 staff are employed – to Bridgend.
There are three clinical contact centres across Wales, one located in each of the three regions of the WAST, namely Llangunnor, Llanfairfechan and Cwmbran.
Assembly Member Adam Price and Member of Parliament Jonathan Edwards have expressed concern at the centralisation which, they say, puts local jobs at risk.
The Wales Ambulance Service Trust (WAST) is consulting on three proposals:
1. No chance to the current operation.
2. Bi-service centre in Llangunnor with Dyfed Powys Police.
3. Tri-service option in Bridgend with South Wales Police and South Wales and Mid and West Fire and Rescue Service.
The Plaid Cymru politicians who represent the Llangunnor area said the option to centralise services would impact local employment and the local economy, as well as potentially diminishing the geographic knowledge of those handling calls.
Mr Price and Mr Edwards said they would be engaging positively with the unions and Ambulance Trust during the consultation period.
Plaid Cymru leader, Leanne Wood AM has also raised concerns on centralisation of jobs with the First Minister in the National Assembly for Wales.
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AM Adam Price said: "I'm deeply concerned by the proposal to move jobs away from Carmarthenshire only to be centralised in Bridgend.
"With many employees travelling to Llangunnor from across Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion, such a move will very likely impact upon local employment and the local economy. Local jobs will be at risk if the move goes ahead.
"Correspondence I have received from the Ambulance Service Trust suggests it is very open to receiving ideas from staff about the way forward.
"This kind of positive attitude is absolutely vital to achieve a successful outcome to this consultation.
"We look forward to meeting with the Ambulance Trust and trade union representatives in the coming days to learn more about the proposals. We will, however, do whatever we can to safeguard local employment."
MP Jonathan Edwards added: "We're not aware of any clinical reasoning behind the decision to consider centralising jobs out of Carmarthenshire.
"On the face of it, it appears these considerations are based on financial savings only. We do, however, need further information from the Ambulance Trust on this.
"Relocating jobs from west Wales risks diminishing the local knowledge of clinical call handlers, which is of paramount importance with ambulance calls.
"Whilst we meet with the Ambulance Trust and union representatives, I would like to reassure employees at the Llangunnor site that they are welcome to contact Adam and I at any time if they need any support."
Richard Lee, Director of Operations at WAST, said: "We recognise that any proposal of change is unsettling for staff, but it's important to keep in perspective that this is an engagement exercise, rather than one of formal consultation.
"We've made no decision about the future location of our clinical contact centres (CCCs) currently based in Carmarthen for our 999 and non-emergency services and in Swansea for our NHS Direct Wales and 111 services.
"This engagement is about having an open and honest conversation with our staff and stakeholders about how best to meet our aspiration for our CCCs in the future.
"In mid-2016, our Board agreed to consolidate our CCCs on three sites to deliver an improved and integrated health model for patients in Wales.
"Our ambulance control rooms have developed over recent years to become CCCs where paramedics, nurses and call-takers provide advice to patients which saves lives, helps deliver babies and avoids unnecessary ambulance dispatches every day.
"Our ambulance allocators and dispatchers need the best technology available to them to get resources to calls quickly to save lives and to enable the dispatch of the best response for patients whose condition is in not life threatening.
"We have an opportunity to join with South Wales Police, Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service and South Wales Fire and Rescue Service in a new tri-service control centre in Bridgend, and it would be remiss of us not to consider this as a potential option.
He added: "It's really important that we get this decision right, which is why we're working closely with our staff, trade union partners and with our stakeholders to test that the criteria we will use to make our final decision are the right ones.
"We must make sure we understand fully the impact on staff and listen to their views and those of the wider community, so that we can deliver the right outcome for staff, patients and the people we are here to serve as we decide how we are going to provide services in the future.
"The outcome of this engagement process will inform the board's final decision-making. It is only then that a formal consultation process would kick in, recognising that any change would take a minimum of 18 months to effect.
"We are proud of our role as the national ambulance service for Wales and are committed to all of the communities we serve, including those where we are a major employer, like Carmarthen and Swansea."
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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Published: Friday, February 10, 2017