NHS England’s property arm has been accused of “putting developments before NHS services”, amid calls for the closure of Wembley Ambulance Station to be paused.
It has emerged that NHS Property Services is the landlord of the London Ambulance Service (LAS) depot in Chaplin Road, which is slated for redevelopment - the details of which have yet to be made public.
Brent Council’s community and wellbeing scrutiny committee met on November 24 to discuss the station’s closure on December 1.
Services will be moved permanently to Kenton, where staff were redeployed to during the lockdown in March.
Councillors suggested further information should be made available before any changes are made, to allow for further engagement with residents and stakeholders and to assess the impact.
Khadir Meer, chief operating officer at London Ambulance Service (LAS), said services have been operating out of Kenton Ambulance Station since March as the Wembley site is “not fit for purpose”.
He said: “Although we call it an ambulance station, it is literally a garage with a small porta cabin.
“It’s been closed since March of this year. We closed it to provide us health care resilience for the people of Brent and northwest London.
“It’s a very old site, it’s owned by NHS property services, the lease is coming to an end and we’ve been asked to vacate.”
He said the garage is not a “healthcare setting”, rather where they mobilise the vehicles and where staff start and end their shifts. He said crews are carried out “on the road, 24 hours a day, seven days a week”.
Cllr Ketan Sheth, chairman of the scrutiny committee, questioned why the council received news of the closure so late and called for greater consultation with the community, saying the “garage has been integral to Brent residents for almost five decades”.
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Pauline Cranmer, director of ambulance services at LAS, said: “Our absolute priority is that we make sure we deliver the health care to Brent residents.”
She said a consultation was making sure “there is no change to the care we deliver” and had “seen no detriment” to their service.
She said response times in the borough were “around 13 minutes” - below the national standard of 18 minutes.
As reported by the BKTimes, the closure of the station in Chaplin Road, is understood to be part of a wider plan of closures including Greenford, Ruislip, and Hayes - along with the creation of “super stations”, beginning with Romford.
Unison representative Anthony Smyth wrote that the trust plans to “consolidate” its estate from 68 stations to 41, with the 41 then being reduced to 19.
Mr Meer said: “We are not aware what the future plans are for NHS Property Services for that site [Wembley Ambulance Station] so we cannot comment at this stage.
“Our response times in since March have improved and our resources in Brent have increased.”
Despite the assurances, councillors expressed reservations.
Cllr Mary Daly said redevelopment was not a question for Mr Meer adding: “They (NHS) say the ambulance station is closed not for service issues but because the landlord, NHS Property services, wanted the land back for development.
“It would appear that NHS Property Services is putting property development before NHS services.
“I think that is a very serious thing that must be urgently investigated.”
The committee agreed that the closure of WAS should be paused and for a “proper stakeholder engagement and public consultation.
NHS Property Services has been contacted.
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