FEARS have been raised about parts of the Lothians being “left bare” as part of a shake-up of ambulance cover.
An ambulance and five members of staff have been redeployed from Haddington Ambulance Station to Musselburgh 11 miles away following a review of demand.
And there are also claims that the remaining two ambulances based in Haddington are increasingly using Tranent Fire Station as a base instead as they are sent to emergency calls in Edinburgh.
Ambulance chiefs insist crews are being “tactically deployed” to different locations to ensure a faster response across the whole of the region. But there are concerns that communities such as North Berwick, Dunbar and Haddington itself are being increasingly cut-off and that the service is relying increasingly on unpaid volunteers, known as first responders, to provide emergency care in the vital minutes before specialist staff arrive.
One staff member, who spoke out on the condition that he would not be named, claimed that there were occasions when it had taken ambulances more than half an hour to respond to emergency calls in the east – despite crews having a target response time of just eight minutes.
He said: “These areas are being left bare. They’re responding from Tranent to these places, which takes ten minutes longer than from Haddington, and that’s if they’re not bogged down in Edinburgh.
“The public are not getting a good service at all and they should be made aware of it – it’s not fair. Working from Tranent Fire Station is nonsense. The ambulance could be coming from as far away as Dalkeith or Edinburgh, while the first responder is holding their hand.”
The ambulance source added: “The whole thing seems to be down to money and targets.”
Stephen Bunyan, chair of Dunbar Community Council, said he was “concerned” about the claims. He added: “This has been raised before from time to time, but these developments are news to me. We are anxious to have reassurance that the service in Dunbar will not deteriorate.”
Ambulance crews have been using Tranent Fire Station while a new ambulance station is built in Prestonpans. A further tactical deployment point has been created in East Linton, although according to the ambulance source, it is rarely used. A spokesman for the Scottish Ambulance Service confirmed an ambulance had moved from Haddington to Musselburgh following an analysis of demand, but said the overall number of ambulances and staff in East Lothian had remained the same.
He added: “We always send the nearest appropriate resource to an emergency call. Most patients are taken to the ERI and there will be times that a crew returning to East Lothian are the nearest to an emergency in Edinburgh.
“An additional Paramedic Response Unit now operates across East Lothian and does not leave the area, providing additional cover if crews are at times delayed returning from Edinburgh.”