At first glance, you could be forgiven for thinking that selling off Burgess Hill ambulance station and downgrading the station in Haywards Heath is a mere cost-cutting exercise.
James Pavey, a senior operations manager with the South East Coast Ambulance service (SECAmb) says money will be saved but the shake-up will produce significant advantages.
Addressing a meeting of the Independent Patients’ Forum for Central Sussex last Thursday, the operations manager for Brighton and Rother, said: “A ‘Make-ready’ station at Falmer, provided planning permission is granted, makes operational sense and will lead to a better, more efficient service.”
So called ‘Make-ready’stations already operate at Chertsey, Paddock Wood, Hastings and Ashford. Under the system, ambulances are picked up and dropped off at the stations where professional teams clean them, re-stock them and maintain them.
If a ‘Make-ready’ station opens at Falmer near the Amex stadium, ambulance crews, who currently re-stock and clean their own vehicles, will be freed up to spend more time on the road, helping patients.
Mr Pavey said: “When a patient gets into an ambulance it will be cleaner and properly stocked. The ambulance service was blamed for a lot of the MRSA in hospitals but going down this route we can provide ambulances that are very clean and regularly swabbed.
“If a person is sick in an ambulance we can hand it to the specialist cleaning team and pick up another vehicle.” Under the scheme, Burgess Hill ambulance station would be sold off and the station at Bridge Road, Haywards Heath, would become a rest area – where crews can take a break during a shift.
At the beginning and end of each shift, all ambulances will be kept at Falmer where professional staff will step in to maintain, deep clean and re-stock them.
Mr Pavey said: “We respond to people not buildings and we put ambulance resources where we expect calls to be. We don’t need a big ambulance station with a big garage like the one in Burgess Hill – we need an ambulance in Burgess Hill.
“At the moment, if an ambulance breaks down, the crew has to wait for someone to come out from Lewes because there are no maintenance facilities here. Until the break-down is resolved that ambulance can’t respond. With a dedicated team to fix ambulance problems at Falmer, reliability will improve.”