Planning application submitted for ambulance centre which could see relocation of Horley and Gatwick staff

Ambulance chiefs have put in a planning application to create a purpose-built Make Ready Centre and regional Hazardous Area Response Team Unit (HART) in Crawley.

South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SECAmb) submitted the application to create the centre on a site in Faraday Road, Northgate, to Crawley Borough Council, last week.

If approved, the new centre will be a site where ambulances are made ready for crews before every shift, a venue for modern training and meeting facilities, and will also provide the regional home for the HART team.

The team is currently based in temporary premises near Gatwick.

It is hoped the new centre, if given final approval by the Trust’s board, will be operational in early 2016.

It is expected that crews currently reporting to the temporary Gatwick HART base, Horley, Crawley, East Grinstead and Horsham, will relocate to the new centre.

The new centre is one of three applications the Trust has recently submitted to create purpose-built Make Ready Centres. The other two applications are for centres in Brighton and Polegate.

The Trust has already developed two purpose-built centres in Ashford and Paddock Wood, Kent. SECAmb’s programme director for estates, Geoff Catling, said: “These facilities will not only ensure that our clinical staff are freed up to do the job they are trained to do – treat patients.

“There will be the prospect of job opportunities as our Make Ready contractors look to recruit make ready operatives from the area.”

Traditionally, ambulance crews have been responsible for cleaning and restocking ambulances before and after shifts. Within the Make Ready system, specialist teams of staff are employed to clean, restock and maintain vehicles. These teams are responsible for regularly deep-cleaning and swabbing vehicles for the presence of micro-organisms including MRSA and Cdiff.

They restock ambulances to a standardised specification, checking and servicing equipment on a regular basis. To reduce the risk of vehicle breakdowns, on-site vehicle maintenance experts are also on hand to undertake routine checks and maintenance.

The staff will begin and end their shifts at the centre, but during their shift will respond from a network of Ambulance Community Response Posts.

These will be located based on patient demand, but it is expected that posts will be found in towns currently served by ambulance stations.

A SECAmb spokesman said: “Decisions regarding the closure of ambulance stations will be made on an individual basis and on whether they are in the best location to respond to patients.

“However, the closures of ambulance stations will only take place once a response post is operational, thus protecting and enhancing the service we provide to patients.”

Ambulance bosses opened the Trust's second HART base at Lowfield Heath in 2012.

The team is based on Gatwick Gate Industrial Park and consists of clinicians specially trained to treat patients in hazardous environments. HART clinicians have been recruited and trained in the use of specialist equipment and vehicles which will enable them to safely treat patients in the so-called ‘hot zone’ of a major incident, or at other incidents with environments such as smoke-filled buildings or where potentially dangerous materials are present. HART members are also specially-trained to respond to chemical leaks, urban search and rescue incidents, incidents at height, flooding, major road collisions and have equipment to test carbon monoxide levels. The teams work alongside their SECAmb colleagues and fellow emergency services to provide additional life-saving support, triage and treatment at the scene of hazardous incidents. The clinicians receive intensive training, including in the use of breathing apparatus and gas-tight chemical suits, to enable them to enter hazardous areas, providing treatment to patients earlier and therefore improving clinical outcomes. HARTs use specialist vehicles including off road 4x4, 6x6 and urban search and rescue vehicles, as well as a state-of-the-art command vehicle. When not responding to HART calls, the team provides operational support to the Trust’s 999 fleet with two single response vehicles and a frontline ambulance. Website: www.secamb.nhs.uk

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