Fear over £30m ambulance cut

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PARAMEDICS fear front line services will be hit after Bicester-based South Central Ambulance Service announced £30million in cuts over the next five years.

South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS), which has its HQ in Talisman Road and covers Oxon, Bucks, Berks and Hants, is having to make savings as part of a national cost-cutting drive.

SCAS said it does not intend to make anyone redundant, and will try to find ways to protect front line services.

But Jonathan Fox, a paramedic of 30 years’ experience and national press officer for the Association of Professional Ambulance Personnel (APAP), fears this may not be possible.

Mr Fox said: “It’s very difficult to reconcile the idea of £6million a year cuts over the next five years without there being an impact on patient services.

“I accept SCAS saying they’re not going to make anyone redundant, but what about recruitment? This will impact on the trust and its ability to deliver patient care.”

He said London Ambulance Service, which is facing £53million in cuts, has already had to announce redundancies and a recruitment freeze.

In a statement, the service said: “South Central Ambulance Service NHS Trust can confirm that we are required, along with other NHS Trusts, to make savings.

“This will mean that we will be required to make savings of £6m per annum over the next five years. Plans for these efficiency savings are still being put together and will be released in the coming months. However we would like to reassure people that currently it is not our intention to make anyone redundant. We need to continue to improve our services for our patients, and as such are continuing to recruit to our frontline services.

“We continue to look at ways to deliver services more efficiently so that we can protect our frontline services.”

Unions have appealed to SCAS to halt a staff consultation over the budget cuts until more information is available.

A member of South Central Ambulance Service, who wished to remain anonymous, said the 300-odd staff based in Bicester were “very concerned.”

He said: “They said they have no intention of halting the consultation. They say it should still go ahead, even though people don’t know what jobs might be available to apply for and what the salaries might be.

“People are very concerned, because they can’t be consulted on something when they don’t actually know what their futures may hold.”