NO PLANS have been made to remove a rapid response ambulance car from the Swanage area – despite claims that the idea has been suggested.

Both the ambulance service and the clinical commissioners told a Dorset Council meeting on Tuesday that at the moment there are no proposals at all – and that a public consultation exercise into emergency cover in Purbeck is still some way from beginning.

Emergency care programme director Sue Sutton from the Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group said only background work had begun – and there were no proposals being put forward at this stage. She said that it might be that the final proposal would be to keep the rapid response car, backed up with double-crewed ambulances, as now, but there was no certainty until more work was undertaken.

She promised the people and health scrutiny committee that the exercise would be honest and open with all the facts made available.

The committee was told that a review of the emergency response service for Purbeck was needed with impending changes to hospital services in the area, notably at Poole General Hospital which would lose its full accident and emergency provision.

The meeting was told that while the rapid response ambulance car was often the first on the scene of a medical emergency a doubled-crewed ambulance often needed to be sent as well incase a patient needed to be transferred to hospital.

Cabinet member Cllr Laura Miller (West Purbeck) said she found the reassurance that no proposals were on the table at this stage and that there would be a public consultation music to her ears.

“I know the strength of feeling in the Swanage area and fully understand that…we should be making all our services equally available to Dorset resident and nobody put at risk,” she said.

There was also criticism of the way the review had been handled so far – with Swanage councillor Bill Trite saying he had never known so much public involvement in a campaign.

He said the town’s location, with a high number of at risk residents and poor road access, especially in the summer, left residents feeling vulnerable.

He said the need for the ambulance car had been demonstrated again and again and called for a special council meeting to discuss the issue before a final decision was made.

Fellow Swanage councillor Gary Suttle said the wrong message had already been sent about the consultation by officials only meeting with a five Swanage town councillors, rather than with the full council and at a meeting which was open to the public.

“Some people are saying that the deal has already been done… I remain slightly perplexed by what ‘engagement’ does mean for our community,” he said.

The meeting was told that once the options and a communication plan had been finalised the consultation would take place over three months.