Leaked email provokes anger over ambulance changes

County Durham ambulance service reforms have been approved before public consultation, a town councillor claims.

Durham Dales, Easington and Sedgefield Clinical Commissioning Group (DDES CCG) wants to replace one paramedic per crew with an emergency care assistant.

Barnard Castle town councillor Tom Deacon said a leaked North East Ambulance Service email suggests the plans are already agreed.

DDES CCG said the final decision would be made in November.

The leaked email said the CCG had confirmed to the ambulance service "the changes have been agreed by their executive team" and that the service should "begin the process of implementation".

'Lip service'

Mr Deacon said neither public nor staff consultation had yet happened but positions for new staff had already been advertised.

"They are just ploughing on ahead," he said. "The public consultations are just lip service."

Chief clinical officer for DDES CCG Dr Stewart Findlay said the executive team supported the proposals but the final decision would be taken by its governing body in November.

Response times in the Upper Dales were below the national requirement (63% in eight minutes as opposed to 75%) and needed improvement, he said.

"The only way we can do this is release paramedics from those vehicles in the Upper Dales - there are not enough paramedics to go around.

"For the bulk of the time one paramedics is driving - that's a huge waste of resources."

He said residents' views would be heard at forthcoming public meetings, but it was important to consider the whole area.

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