New ambulance centre which could see relocation of staff from Gatwick, moves a step closer

Plans to create a new ambulance Make Ready Centre in Crawley, which could mean the relocation of staff from Gatwick, have moved a step closer.

South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust’s (SECAmb) plans to develop a Make Ready Centre and regional Hazardous Area Response Team (HART) base on a site in Faraday Road, Northgate, were given planning consent by Crawley Borough Council earlier this week.

The new centre, which will act as a point where ambulances are made ready for crews before every shift, will also provide the regional home for the HART team, which is currently based in temporary premises near Gatwick. The site will also provide modern training and meeting facilities.

It is hoped the new centre will be operational in early 2016, and it is expected that crews currently reporting to the temporary Gatwick HART base, Horley, Crawley, East Grinstead and Horsham, will relocate to it.

The planning application is one of three the Trust has recently submitted to create purpose-built Make Ready Centres.

The other two applications are for centres in Brighton and Polegate in East Sussex, which was also recently granted planning permission. The Trust has already developed two purpose-built centres in Ashford and Paddock Wood in 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.”

The Trust said the Make Ready initiative will significantly enhance and improve its service, minimising the risk of cross-infection, freeing up front-line staff who currently clean and re-stock ambulances, to spend more time treating patients, and keeping vehicles on the road for longer.

The initiative entails specially-trained operatives regularly deep-cleaning, restocking and checking vehicles for mechanical faults.

The Make Ready Centre will be supported by a network of ambulance community response posts (ACRPs) across the area, and will see staff begin and end their shifts at the new centre.

However during their shifts, staff will respond from the ACRPs, which will provide facilities for staff. These will be located based on patient demand.

Work is under way to have the new ACRPs in place for when the new centre becomes operational.

The Trust has 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, it added, the closures of ambulance stations will only take place once a response post is operational, thus protecting and enhancing SECAmb's service to patients. It is expected that response posts will be found in towns currently served by ambulance stations.

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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