More than 1,200 in a week back Berwick petition for increased ambulance cover

Sir Alan Beith and Lib dem campaigner Julie Porksen have led a campaign for improved ambulance cover in Berwick

Julie Pörksen and Sir Alan Beith at Berwick Ambulance Station
Julie Pörksen and Sir Alan Beith at Berwick Ambulance Station

More than twelve hundred people have backed an MP’s campaign for improved ambulance cover in rural North Northumberland.

Berwick MP Sir Alan Beith and his would be replacement Julie Pörksen set up a petition calling for both the town’s ambulances to operate 24 hours a day, with one only on call during office hours at present.

The politicians began the campaign amid concerns over waiting times for patients in Berwick and its surrounding rural area.

To date over 1,200 people have signed in one week, support praised by Sir Alan and Mrs Pörksen.

Yet ambulance bosses have insisted performance levels in the Berwick area are in line with national targets.

North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) proposed in 2012 to remove a town ambulance which provided cover 12 hours a day, as part of a review of provision across the region.

The move prompted a petition of 6,000 signatures and opposition from the Conservative group on Northumberland County Council, which threatened a judicial review.

NEAS abandoned the plan after new funding was agreed to improve response times.

The Journal has previously reported cases of people in the Berwick area waiting several hours for ambulances in emergency situations. Vehicles were travelling from as far away as Amble due to unavailability of ambulances at the town’s station.

The county council set up a working group with a remit to look into the issue while Sir Alan called for increased cover for the town earlier this year.

Now, the Liberal Democrat and the party’s candidate to replace the retiring MP at the next general election Ms Pörksen have set up the petition calling for both town ambulances to provide 24 hour cover.

More than 1,200 people have signed in the first week.

Sir Alan said: “Berwick residents have told me that they really value health services being available close to home and better ambulance cover is a part of that for when emergencies happen.

“We have already fought successfully to keep a second emergency ambulance in Berwick and now we want to make sure health bosses understand how vital the service is and increase the cover to 24 hours.”

Ms Pörksen added: “Waiting times for the emergency ambulance is a concern that many Berwick residents had raised with me, which is why we have taken action to try and get the second ambulance working 24 hours.

“Since starting the petition I have been told of even more instances where Berwick residents have been left waiting for an ambulance.

“Concerns have also been expressed by those living in the Wooler area who frequently have to depend on their first responder volunteers at night when the Berwick ambulance is away on an emergency.

“I am pleased so many people have signed up to the petition and together we should really be able to put forward a powerful case to get better ambulance cover for residents in the North Northumberland and Berwick area.”

Yet a NEAS spokeswoman said the service is performing well in the Berwick area.

“NEAS is currently meeting the national target of responding to at least 75% of emergency calls within eight minutes.”

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