Building work has started on South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust’s (SECAmb’s) new multi-purpose ambulance, 999 and NHS 111 centre in Gillingham.

The development will include 999 and 111 call centre operations as well as a Make Ready Centre – the only one of its kind to bring all three functions together under one roof. Building work at the Bredgar Road site follows planning permission being granted last year.

The contractor, Westridge Construction, is now on site carrying out groundworks ahead of construction. The centre is expected to become fully operational in Autumn 2022.

SECAmb’s Make Ready vehicle preparation and maintenance system will occupy the two lower floors while staff currently based at the Trust’s East 999 Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) in Coxheath and Trust NHS 111 staff, currently based in Ashford, Kent, will benefit from modern open-plan offices above.

Integrating both 999 and 111 services is a key part of SECAmb’s strategy to deliver more joined up integrated care and to increase efficiency. The development will also bring the east of SECAmb’s region in line with its West Emergency Operations Centre (including NHS 111), based in Crawley, which opened in 2017.

SECAmb’s Make Ready system, which is already in place across much of its region, is a vehicle preparation system which sees specialist teams of staff employed to clean, restock and maintain the Trust’s fleet.

Ambulance crews currently starting and ending their shifts at Medway Ambulance Station in Chatham will, instead, start and finish at the new centre. They will then respond from ambulance community response posts across the region with suitable rest facilities for crews between calls and when on a break.

Staff based in Sheppey will continue to start and end their shifts from the ambulance station on the island, which has undergone a major refurbishment and upgrade to provide new educational and training facilities.

SECAmb currently operates nine Make Ready Centres across its region with Brighton the latest centre to open in December 2020.

SECAmb Executive Director of Operations Emma Williams said: “It’s really great that building work is now under way on this important development for SECAmb. Our current building at Coxheath is outdated and not adequate for our requirements. Having operations centres for 999 and 111 under one roof will ensure we further optimise functions between the services.

“The new centre provides us with greater capacity, means we can improve the ratio of 999 call taking across our two EOCs and will bring local recruitment opportunities for people across both 999 and 111 services.

“Not only is our Make Ready system more efficient but the new building will also provide staff with access to modern facilities for training. We understand any change has an impact on staff and we will continue to fully engage with everyone affected ahead of the move next year.”

What is Make Ready?

  • SECAmb’s Make Ready initiative significantly enhances and improves the service it provides to the community
  • It minimises the risk of cross-infection, frees up front-line staff – who traditionally cleaned and re-stocked ambulances – to spend more time treating patients, and keeps vehicles on the road for longer
  • The initiative ensures that specially-trained operatives regularly deep-clean, restock and check vehicles for mechanical faults
  • Make Ready Centres are supported by a network of Ambulance Community Responses Posts (ACRPs) across the area with staff beginning and ending their shifts at the new centre
  • During their shifts, staff will respond from the ACRPs which will provide facilities for staff. These are located based on patient demand
  • Crews continue to respond from the same towns under the system but begin and end their shifts at staggered times with a vehicle that is fully prepared for them
  • The system ensures crews have access to improved training facilities and opportunities and increased support from managers.