Lewes MP faces questions over contract for extra ambulance capacity

Lewes’ MP is facing questions over a £30m contract to provide extra ambulance cover.

Services are under severe pressure, with NHS trusts up and down the country facing record numbers of callouts.

In Sussex, South East Coast Ambulance Service (SECAmb) has moved to its ‘highest level of escalation’ and says it handled in excess of 18,500 999 calls last week.

In the Commons on Wednesday, Lewes MP Maria Caulfield, who is a minister at the Department of Health and Social Care, said: “We have procured a contract with a total value of £30 million for an auxiliary ambulance service, which will provide national surge capacity if needed to support the ambulance response during periods of increased pressure.”

South East Coast Ambulance Service (SECAmb) covers Sussex, Surrey and Kent

However the Lib Dems have questioned whether the government has actually contracted surge support for ambulances or not. This follows reports in the Health Service Journal that the contract had yet to be awarded.

When approached for further comment by the Express, Ms Caulfield said: “As I said in the House of Commons yesterday we are procuring a contract for an auxiliary ambulance service to ease pressure worth £30 million.”

Lib Dem health spokesperson Daisy Cooper said it was ‘no time for sloppy statements from ministers’ adding: "We are just 48 hours away from a heatwave health emergency and already ambulance services are buckling under the pressure.”

And James MacCleary, Lib Dem Parliamentary spokesman for Lewes, suggested that if Ms Caulfield had misled Parliament over ambulance contracts ‘then she must correct the record immediately’.

He added: "While she is in Westminster prioritising her ministerial job, I am going to stay focused on the escalating health crisis affecting residents locally. Our local ambulance service was recently placed in special measures, Seaford GPs have capped patient numbers, and no-one can get to an NHS dentist. All of this has been on Maria Caulfield's watch. Enough is enough, it's time for a change."

The South East is seeing extremely high temperatures and these can adversely affect older people and the very young. SECAmb is urging these groups and those who care for them to take particular care during any warm weather.