A shake-up is planned for the ambulance control centres serving Brighton and Hove and the surrounding area.
South East Coast Ambulance Service is to reduce the number of control centres from three to two and is likely to move out of its base in Lewes.
The ambulance trust said, at its annual members meeting on Thursday (25 September), that the changes were intended to cope with future increases in 999 calls.
At the moment the ambulance trust has its headquarters in Banstead, Surrey, and two regional offices in Lewes and Coxheath, near Maidstone in Kent.
Each of these sites also houses an emergency operations centre (EOC) where 999 calls are received, clinical advice is provided and paramedics and ambulances are dispatched if needed.
The trust said that it wanted a new headquarters on the Sussex and Surrey border, housing one of the two new control centres. The other would be situated in Kent.
The trust added: “While it is not known at this stage where the centres will be located, the trust is committed to making this move which will bring it in line with the majority of other ambulance trusts around the country which have two EOCs.”
Acting assistant director of clinical operations Sue Skelton said: “Our EOCs have reached capacity.
“We are undertaking some remedial work to ensure that can continue to provide a safe service in the short term. But we do need to find a long-term solution to the problem within the next few years.
“We have seen 999 calls increase by 25 per cent since 2007 and with demand forecast to increase by 5 per cent year-on-year, we can’t afford to do nothing.”
The trust said that the switch to two new control centres would increase capacity and staff numbers.
It added: “The trust looked at the possibility of maintaining three smaller EOCs as well as one larger EOC.
“However, this was ruled out as there is good evidence which shows that having fewer but larger EOCs improves staff performance and reduces variation.
“The trust also needs to be mindful of costs particularly in these challenging financial times.
“By introducing two EOCs, the trust believes it will have a better resilience and be cost effective.
“There will be an opportunity to manage the growing number of non-urgent calls more appropriately.”
Sue Skelton said: “The new centres will have the capacity to allow more clinicians to be on hand to help direct patients to the right healthcare.
“We would also have better resilience if one of the EOCs was forced out of action. The centres would have the capacity to take the additional calls but equally the staff to answer them.”
Over the coming months the trust said that it would be “informing the public, stakeholders and staff about these plans and what it will mean for the trust and the community it serves”.
Sue Skelton added: “The public should be reassured that this propose changes will not have an impact on the way we deliver the service.
“In fact it will serve to improve the service we offer while providing facilities that staff can feel proud to work in.”
The trust also plans to open a “make ready” centre for its ambulances in Brighton. It has already been given planning permission for the base, next to the Keep archive and records centre in Falmer.
The make ready centre is intended be one of 12 and work should start as soon as the financial case has been agreed.
When the make ready centre opens, the old ambulance station at Brighton General Hospital, in Elm Grove, would close and the site would be sold.
Hove Ambulance Station, in St Joseph’s Close, off Old Shoreham Road, would stay open.
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