AMBULANCE staff in Swindon are struggling to cope with binge drinking in the town centre and queues at hospitals.

Staff at the Queen’s Drive Ambulance Station were given the opportunity to vent their frustrations on Saturday when Swindon’s two MPs dropped by.

Concerns over time wasted outside hospitals and on dealing with drunk and abusive yobs were put to Anne Snelgrove and Michael Wills. But improvements in the service were also noted, with praise being given to outgoing chief executive Anthony Marsh and the success of the Emergency Care Practitioner (ECP) scheme.

Paramedic Matt Baskerville has been with the Great Western Ambulance Service (GWAS) for 10 years and said he and his colleagues were pleased to have the chance to put their concerns to the MPs.

He said:“It is nice to be recognised because we do often feel that we are the forgotten emergency service. You always hear about the police and fire but we always seem to be in the background.”

The MPs spoke to ambulance crews for almost an hour before being shown around the station.

Matt said: “We talked about issues such as queuing outside hospitals, which is really frustrating for us. They said they were going to take that issue up for us.”

Last year GWAS was rated as weak by the Healthcare Commission and morale among staff was low, but Matt said the mood has lifted under Anthony Marsh’s leadership.

Matt said: “He’s been fantastic – he really listens to what people are saying and is constantly involved in what’s going on. Staff morale is definitely on the up from that point of view but there are still problems in terms of waiting at hospitals and having to deal with drunk people in the town centre.

“It is frustrating when we are having to deal with people who have drunk themselves stupid and then got into a fight instead of a genuine medical emergency.

“Young kids getting blind drunk, people being abusive – it’s a regular part of the job. People see a uniform and it brings out some sort of reaction in them. It is a problem when you’ve got five ambulances in Swindon and you might have someone suffering from a heart attack on one side of town but we’re on the other side dealing with someone who doesn’t know when to stop drinking.”

Mrs Snelgrove, South Swindon MP, said she would do everything possible to help ambulance crews.

She said: “I came to hear directly from the staff the challenges they are facing. There are issues that Michael and I will now be taking up with the right people. There are concerns about handover times at hospitals, which the trust is working to improve.

“I have also learnt about the Emergency Care Practitioner role, which is relatively new role that can administer care in the home, which will help to reduced the number of people being taken to hospital unnecessarily.”