East Midlands closure plans have sparked fear

More than 150 protestors marched through Ripley on Saturday to voice anger at ‘ridiculous’ plans to close ambulance stations in the county.

EMAS plans to shut all but two of Derbyshire’s 16 stations, including Ripley’s, and replace them with 13 super ‘hubs’ across the East Midlands.

Protest: Supporters of Ripley Ambulance station protest through Ripley.

Protest: Supporters of Ripley Ambulance station protest through Ripley.

The county would be served by hubs in Derby and Chesterfield supported by a series of standby points.

But those opposed to the moves say it would leave rural areas isolated and could result in lost lives.

Public sector workers union Unison is heading up the campaign to revise the planned closures and has already gathered more than 10,000 names on a petition.

Emergency care practitioner and Unison leader for Derbyshire, John Mcgrath said: “There was really good support, not just from the staff in Derbyshire and at Ripley ambulance station, but from all over the region - and members of the public as well.

He continued: “I think it just highlights the major concerns from staff and the public about these ridiculous proposals.”

Bolsover’s Labour MP Dennis Skinner took part in the march, which snaked from Butterley Park to the market place, and delivered a speech to the crowds shortly before noon. Chants of “save lives not money” could be heard from the campaigners.

Mr Mcgrath said he hopes the strength of opposition to the proposals shown on Saturday will convince EMAS management to negotiate new plans with Unison.

He added: “No matter what your job is we all want to work somewhere nice.

“We do agree that a lot of our ambulance stations do need looking at.

“But it’s got to be a realistic option.”

Ripley town councillor David Williams was one the main organisers of the demonstrations.

He said: “It was a very succesful day and Dennis Skinner made a rousing speech on the market place. There was a lot of good will towards the protestors from the public.”

EMAS says the hubs will make the service more efficient and says it is currently paying to keep empty stations open.

The cost of bringing the stations built in the 50s and 60s up to date would be £30 million it claims.

But many Paramedics are proving hard to convince of the ‘super hub’ plans. One paramedic present at the march on Saturday, said: “If it snows, how am I meant to get to and from Chesterfield?”

The proposals are still open to consultation until December 17 - with final plans expected in the new year.