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Welsh Air Ambulance review 'shambolic', says Tory

Air ambulance
The Welsh Air Ambulance currently has four bases [BBC]

A Conservative politician has called the process for a review recommending the closure of two Welsh Air Ambulance bases "shambolic".

Member of the Senedd (MS) Russell George called on the Welsh government and chief ambulance services commissioner Stephen Harrhy to "get your act together".

The review proposes moving helicopters from Welshpool, Powys, and Caernarfon, Gwynedd, to Rhuddlan in Denbighshire.

The Welsh government said it understood the strength of feeling, but the review timetable was a matter for health boards and the Emergency Ambulance Services Committee (EASC).

The EASC carried out a review into air ambulance provision to "improve and adapt the service to meet as much demand in Wales as possible".

Along with establishing a new north Wales base, the review recommended setting up an additional rapid response road service for those parts of rural mid and north Wales which could be adversely affected by the new plan.

The EASC had been expected to make a decision on Thursday on whether the closure and other changes were to go ahead. But it later emerged that no decision was likely until late April.

Mr George, MS for Montgomeryshire, criticised the review process, and said there was no information on the EASC website to view its meeting.

He said that "the process started shambolically 18 months ago" and there was now a lack of information and transparency.

Campaigners opposing the closure have also warned it could hit fund-raising efforts for the air ambulance charity.

According to the air ambulance review, services in north and mid Wales are underused, and do not operate at night.

It means while there is around the clock coverage for large parts of Wales from the helicopter service based in Cardiff, the vast majority of patients in north Wales currently have no overnight rapid response trauma coverage.

That equates to 530,000 people living in north Wales.

By acquiring a new site in Denbighshire, the review reports says the air ambulance service will be able to serve more people, and offer air coverage in north Wales until 2am.

However, it does recognise that those living in mid and north-west Wales will be at a disadvantage when helicopters are unable to fly, as they will be much further away from the current rapid response road services.

The review also accepts it will take longer to reach patients further south, stating: "Its more northerly location limits the coverage it can provide for southern population in 30 minutes compared to Welshpool and Caernarfon."

The Welsh government said: "We understand the strength of feeling among the local communities about this, however the timetable for the review is a matter for health boards and EASC”.

Mr Harrhy has also been contacted for comment.