Closing Welshpool and Caernarfon's air bases and merging them on a single site would allow the Wales Air Ambulance to respond to more incidents, new documents claim.

But the documents released ahead of the second round of consultations into the air ambulance plans also show that keeping Welshpool and Caernarfon open would only lead to three fewer call-outs a year.

Merging the bases would also lead to the quickest call-outs - but the overall speed of the response from the "clock start time" would be fastest by keeping both bases open.

Both scenarios would also involve the air ambulance service adding an additional rapid response car in either Wrexham or Rhuddlan near Rhyl, where the proposed merged base would be located.

There are six scenarios tested by data analysis company Optima as part of the second phase of the consultation into the air ambulance base's future.

Local people have responded in their thousands to the plans for the closure of the Welshpool air base, and the latest figures show that while there is work to be done, hope remains that Welshpool could be kept open.


What does the data show?

Six options have been investigated by Optima, including: 

  1. Keeping things as they are.
  2. Keeping the bases the same but changing the shift patterns
  3. Merging the bases at Rhuddlan and changing shift patterns
  4. Merging at Rhuddlan, changing shift patterns, and adding a rapid response vehicle
  5. Keeping things as they are but adding a crew and shift, but with no more helicopters.
  6. Keeping the bases but changing the shift patterns AND adding a car.

The analysis shows that option 4 would lead to the most "arrivals" - ie. the air ambulance arriving at a call-out - with 2,904 per year, with an average "reflex" time of 24 minutes and 12 seconds - 38 seconds less than option 6.

Option 6, which would see Welshpool keep its base, would allow for 2,901 responses, averaging 24 minutes and 50 seconds.

But the overall response "duration" - which is listed as being from the clock start time to the vehicle's arrival time, rather than the time the vehicle is travelling - is listed as being quicker if both bases are retained and a vehicle is added.

What does Optima recommend?

The data analysts say: "This shows that merging Caernarfon and Welshpool into Rhuddlan on its own can lead to stronger performance improvements than adding an extra shift to existing locations.

"The combination of merging into Rhuddlan and adding an extra car to a new location leads to the strongest performance improvements. If the best performance improvements are the goal, then it is recommended to implement scenario 4C. A good second-best option is scenario 6C."

Politicians respond

Montgomeryshire MS Russell George said: “We are disappointed that the supporting documents on which phase two of the engagement process is based were published just three days before the tight schedule of public meetings commences. This does not give local people sufficient time to scrutinise and analyse the documents.

''It has been clear throughout the formal process that people across Mid Wales are almost unanimous in their strong belief that Welshpool’s base should remain open. Mr Harrhy’s report today made that strength of feeling clear - with specific references to how rural areas like ours feel left behind.

“While the Welshpool base will now operate to 2026, we need to keep up the united pressure the campaign has generated so far to protect our Air Ambulance provision for the long term.”

MP Craig Williams added: “The maps showing fly times of 24 minutes from the existing bases at Welshpool & Caernarfon show how both of these current locations are superbly placed to serve all of North and Mid Wales.

“The documents released state that 90% of the public want to be reassured that a plan is in place to support patients to the same standard as today. Given the wide range of issues in this process so far, it is not unreasonable for people to have concerns that we will be left with a poorer service if bases are closed.

“Rural areas like Montgomeryshire and broader Mid Wales have a critical need for this vital service. A combination of our agricultural sector, rurality and poor roads mean that the Air Ambulance is literally a life-saver for people here.”

Plaid Cymru calls

Plaid Cymru councillor and prospective parliamentary candidate for Montgomeryshire Elwyn Vaughan said the proposal showed the initial plans had been flawed.

"What is interesting is that the favoured option 4C is a change to the original proposal in that it has a added RRV - this is a acknowledgment therefore that my proposal is better than the original one and confirms the data used was weak to say the least," he said.

"In view of the fact that centralising things at Rhuddlan only facilitate three extra call outs a year - it has to be accepted that is well within the margin of error with such data.

"It also has to be noted that in keeping Welshpool & Caernarfon bases the overall response "duration" - which is listed as being from the clock start time to the vehicle's arrival time, rather than the time the vehicle is travelling - is listed as being quicker if both bases are retained and a vehicle is added.

"One can only conclude therefore that all this confirms the need to keep both bases and any alleged benefit of moving to Rhuddlan is marginal to say the least and worrying for Mid Wales residents. It is imperative that a united voice continues calling for the bases to be kept."