Renewed calls have been made to safeguard the long-term future of Wales Air Ambulance bases in Caernarfon and Welshpool.
Dwyfor Meirionnydd MP Liz Saville Roberts and MS Mabon ap Gwynfor, Glantwymyn councillor Elwyn Vaughan and Mongomeryshire MS and MP Russell George and Craig Williams, along with Andy O’Regan from the Save Our Bases campaign group in Caernarfon and Cynthia & Clive Duce for the Welshpool campaign, have renewed their call, as new data reveals that a recommendation to retain the two bases and provide a rapid response vehicle has been accepted as one of the best options for the future of the service.
Six scenarios are being tested by data analysis company Optima as part of the second phase of the public consultation into the future of the Wales Air Ambulance service.
The newly released data reveals the proposal to merge the bases at one site in Rhuddlan in north-west Wales would reduce overall response speed.
Mrs Saville Roberts and Mr ap Gwynfor have been vocal in their opposition to plans to centralise the lifesaving service at one site, and their calls have been backed by thousands of people from across Gwynedd and mid Wales.
The two options favoured by Optima are Option 4 of merging the service at Rhuddlan, changing shift patterns, and adding a rapid response vehicle, and Option 6 of keeping bases at Caernarfon and Welshpool, changing shift patterns and adding a rapid response vehicle (RRV).
Commenting on the findings, the MP and MS said: “Rural areas in Gwynedd and mid Wales have a vital need for this lifesaving service. A combination of our agricultural communities, rurality and poor road infrastructure mean that the air ambulance is the difference between life and death.
“Plaid Cymru has argued from the outset that this lifesaving emergency service must be safeguarded within timely reach of our communities.
“We therefore welcome the fact that our call to keep both bases in Caernarfon and Welshpool open and introduce an RRV has been accepted as one of the best options for the future of the service.
“Since merging the bases at one centralised location in north-west Wales only facilitates three additional call-outs a year, it can be argued that this is well within the margin of error for such data.
“In addition, in retaining the bases in Caernarfon and Welshpool, the data shows that the overall response duration – listed as being from the clock start time to the vehicle’s arrival time – is listed as being quicker if both bases are retained and a rapid response vehicle is added.
“It has been evident from the outset that people across Gwynedd and mid Wales are almost unanimous in their conviction that both Caernarfon and Welshpool bases should be kept open.
“This newly released data quite clearly suggests a strong need to keep both bases open and that any proposed benefit of centralising the service in Rhuddlan is marginal to say the least.
“The data also reveals that 90 per cent of the public are seeking reassurance that any changes to service provision will meet the needs of patients to the same standards as today.
“Given some of the questions surrounding the data being used to underpin the charity’s proposals, it is not unreasonable for people to have serious concerns that we will be left with a much poorer service if bases are axed.
“We will continue to hold the decision makers to account and appeal to everyone who shares our concerns to respond to the second phase of the public consultation, attend any engagement events and send a clear message that this service must be retained locally.”
Mr O’Regan added: “I would encourage everyone who can to head out to your nearest Phase 2 public meeting, so you can push home the message of how crucial Option 6 will be for local communities across Gwynedd and mid Wales.”
Cllr Vaughan, Powys councillor for Glantwymyn and Plaid Cymru’s candidate for Montgomeryshire Glyndŵr, agrees.
“It is imperative for Ceredigion, Meirionnydd and large parts of Montgomeryshire that we get them to adopt Option 6,” he said.
“Let’s all unite to make this happen and save our air ambulance. The estimated average response time from incident to getting care would also be the quickest overall at 51 minutes and 47 seconds.
“In Powys the amount of people incidents missed would not change from its current rate; it would see response times drop on average by seven minutes and 43 seconds.
“This scenario also is the most even in terms of improvements across Wales as in this scenario there would be an improvement in times in Gwynedd and Ceredigion as well as in the north-east of Wales, with no area being actively worse off than they are now.”
He added: “I welcome the fact that the Plaid Cymru recommendation to save the base at Welshpool and Caernarfon has been accepted as amongst the best option for the future.
“What is interesting is that the favoured option 4C is a change to the original proposal in that it has an added RRV. This is an acknowledgment therefore that my proposal is better than the original one by the Wales Air Ambulance and confirms the data used was weak to say the least.
“One can only conclude therefore that all this confirms the need to keep both bases and any alleged benefit of moving to Rhuddlan is marginal to say the least and worrying for mid Wales residents.
“It is imperative that a united voice continues calling for the bases to be kept.”
Mr George and Mr Williams have encouraged the public to give their views to the second stage of the formal engagement process into the future of the Wales Air Ambulance.
Phase 2 of the engagement process launched on Monday, 9 October and is due to last until Sunday, 5 November with several public meetings planned.
Both Montgomeryshire representatives have sought to hold to account the various organisations involved in the future of the service since the shock leak of the proposals in August 2022.
Both have worked closely with local campaigners and met with Stephen Harrhy, the Chief Ambulance Service Commissioner who is leading the engagement process into the future of the air ambulance.
With a short window of less than one month to gather public views on phase two, the two Conservatives politicians are urging the public to get involved once again and present their views – even if they have previously contributed.
Mr George said: “We are disappointed that the supporting documents on which Phase 2 of the engagement process is based were published just three days before the tight schedule of public meetings commences. This does not give local people sufficient time to scrutinise and analyse the documents.
We need to keep up the united pressure the campaign has generated so far to protect our air ambulance provision for the long term.
Russell George MS
“It has been clear throughout the formal process that people across mid Wales are almost unanimous in their strong belief that Welshpool’s base should remain open.
“Mr Harrhy’s report today made that strength of feeling clear – with specific references to how rural areas like ours feel left behind.
“While the Welshpool base will now operate to 2026, we need to keep up the united pressure the campaign has generated so far to protect our air ambulance provision for the long term.”
Mr Williams said: “The maps showing fly times of 24 minutes from the existing bases at Welshpool and Caernarfon show how both of these current locations are superbly placed to serve all of north and mid Wales.
“The documents released state that 90 per cent of the public want to be reassured that a plan is in place to support patients to the same standard as today. Given the wide range of issues in this process so far, it is not unreasonable for people to have concerns that we will be left with a poorer service if bases are closed.
“Rural areas like Montgomeryshire and broader mid Wales have a critical need for this vital service. A combination of our agricultural sector, rurality and poor roads mean that the air ambulance is literally a life-saver for people here.”
A series of public drop-ins and meeting have already taken place but one remains, along with some online events.
A drop-in event will take place at Plas Heli, Pwllheli today, Wednesday, 18 October, from 12pm to 3pm
And a public meeting will take place at Ysgol Glan y Môr, Pwllheli tonight, from 6.30pm to 7.30pm.
Virtual public meetings will be held tomorrow, Thursday, from 6.30pm to 7.30pm and Friday, from 1pm to 2pm.