Dwyfor MeirionnyddMS Mabon ap Gwynfor has used an urgent question in the Senedd today to challenge the Health Minister on the decision to close the Caernarfon and Welshpool Air Ambulance bases.

Mr ap Gwynfor said there were major flaws in the plan to centralise the service at an unknown site in northwest Wales and accused Air Ambulance Charity boss Sue Barnes of having a disparaging and dismissive attitude towards concerned members of the public. 

Speaking in the Senedd, Mabon ap Gwynfor MS said: “The decision taken yesterday is extremely controversial for several reasons and the residents of northwest and mid Wales are stunned.

“Caernarfon and Welshpool will lose this extremely important service which will be centralized at somewhere like Broughton taking away vital skills in these communities.

“It is also likely to reduce the essential Welsh-language service for patients who are in trauma and are more comfortable expressing themselves through the medium of Welsh.

“There are two health regions who will be specifically affected by this decision - the Betsi Cadwaladr and Powys areas - does the Minister not believe that it speaks volumes that those two areas have expressed concerns about the plans and did not support the yesterday's decision

“Does the Minister think it’s right that areas that won’t be affected to the same extent by the decision have been able to push this through? What exactly has this Government done during this process?

“When we first raised this issue 18 months ago, and several times after that, the First Minister at the time and the Government denied any responsibility and said that this was a matter for the Charity - but it was Health Boards in Wales under your control who made this decision.

!Minister, are you happy with the decision? Do you believe that this will lead to a better service?

!I know the arguments being presented in favour of the recommendation - and the comments made by Sue Barnes, Head of the Charity who said that people haven’t understood the recommendations and indeed, she laughed at some of the recommendations – this is offensive and disparaging.

“I and others understand the proposal well, but we have not been convinced. Of course, we want to see the unmet need addressed. Of course, we want to see the service improve and strengthened. But it is clear that there are major failures in these plans, and they have not convinced the public - the public who are dependent on the service and who finance the service either through generous donations or through their taxes.

“I know that the air ambulance is not a transport service - although there is a question here, if there is under-utilisation in some areas, then why limit the service especially when there is an urgent need for ambulance transport in rural areas.

“I know it's a critical service - and that's the point.

“The helicopter itself is unable to fly for a portion of the time, and so we are dependent on the road vehicles to reach secluded areas.

“These are critical care vehicles, not ordinary ambulances.

“Now the new recommendations propose to provide some kind of road service, but there are no details, it is certainly not critical care, and it all remains vague - that is why, at least in part, both Betsi Cadwaladr and Powys health boards did not support the plans.

“So, what critical care service is there going to be for the people of Pendraw Llŷn, the Meirionnydd coast, north Môn, north Ceredigion, and Maldwyn?

“There are alternative plans, but only this one plan has been pushed since the very beginning.

“So, finally, Minister, are you satisfied with this decision? Are you confident that the people of northwest and mid Wales will not see a decline in provision? Do you believe this is the only plan to answer the demand for critical care in our communities?”