Protest held in ambulance fight
Campaigners fighting plans to shut ambulance stations and create two "super stations" across Leicestershire are holding a protest meeting tonight.
They believe plans drawn up by East Midlands Ambulance Service (Emas) will mean longer waiting times and could cost lives.
Steve Score, a spokesman for the Leicester Socialist Party which is hosting the meeting, claimed: "Cuts to ambulance services will mean longer waiting times for critically ill patients and lives will be lost as a result.
"We are supporting unions which say that reducing the number of stations is inevitably going to have an effect on patients, particularly in rural areas."
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An online petition protesting at the changes has been signed by more than 3,700 people.
Bosses at Emas said the proposed changes would lead to a better service and improved response times.
Under the shake-up, stations in Coalville, Hinckley, Market Harborough, Melton, Narborough, Oakham, Syston and Lutterworth would close.
Instead, there would be "super stations" in Loughborough and at Gorse Hill, near Anstey.
There would also be a series of stand-by points and community ambulance posts where crews can use rest facilities.
Phil Milligan, Emas chief executive, said: "We are committed to being the best ambulance service we can be and we know that we need to fundamentally improve the way we work to achieve this.
"We must ensure that we spend our limited resources in making our frontline services the best they can be rather than updating old buildings."
Dr James Gray, Emas medical director, said: "Our emergency ambulances are our mobile emergency treatment centres.
"The more money we can spend on them and our colleagues who work on the frontline the better."
Zuffar Haq, a spokesman for the Leicester Mercury Patients' Panel, said: "We have been assured that all money received from selling ambulance stations will be reinvested in the service.
"Emas will be able to improve response times by having more staff and vehicles on the road to respond to emergency calls, with crews having to spend less time checking their own vehicles."
The Leicester Socialist Party meeting begins at 7.30pm at the Red Tent, Pocklingtons Walk, Leicester.
People have until December 17 to comment on plans.
For more information, go to:
www.emas.nhs.uk/ get-involved/being-the-best- consultation/