Ambulance service merger passes final hurdle
The Merger of Bristol's ambulance service with its neighbours has been approved by the health minister.
Great Western Ambulance Service (GWAS) is set to join forces with South Western Ambulance Service Foundation Trust (SWAS) from February 1.
The signing of the order to dissolve the ambulance service covering Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and the former Avon area by Jeremy Hunt was the final hurdle in the process to merge with SWAS, which covers Somerset, Dorset, Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.
The expanded SWAS will provide services to a population of more than 5.3 million people. It will continue to be run from the service's Exeter headquarters with managers based in local areas.
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The decision was taken by GWAS to work with a partner organisation rather than try to meet the Government's plans to become a foundation trust.
GWAS chairman, Peter Carr, said: "When as a board we decided in August 2011 to identify a partner rather than pursue an application for foundation trust status as an independent trust, our decision was based on the best interests of patients, staff and taxpayers. That focus has remained throughout the rigorous process that has resulted in this welcome decision by the Secretary of State.
"I would also pay tribute to all GWAS staff who have continued to provide high-quality care to patients during what has undoubtedly been an unsettling time for them personally. It is particularly pleasing that, during this period of change, GWAS has been shown as one of the best ambulance trusts in terms of clinical performance and response standards."
A business case for the takeover drawn up by SWAS said the move would "create a high performing ambulance trust which continues to improve, innovate and deliver high quality services to patients", stabilise the trust through "strong leadership", "develop a positive, dynamic culture for all staff" and to use the opportunity to "improve relationships with patients and the local population".
Chief executive of SWAS Ken Wenman, who has also been in charge of GWAS for the last year of its existence, said: "I have met many skilled and committed clinicians and managers within GWAS, mirroring the expertise I know we have in SWAS.
"As a result, I am really looking forward to the great opportunity we have to take the best from each trust. This will further improve the quality of care offered to patients, as well as further strengthening the role of ambulance services within local health communities."
Chairwoman of SWAS, Heather Strawbridge, said: "People in the GWAS area now have an opportunity to be part of an NHS foundation trust and I would encourage individuals to join as members and to consider standing as governors as we are committed to working with our communities to ensure they receive the best ambulance service possible."