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Ambulance Trust reorganisation

17th May 2006

28032006_ambulance.jpgFollowing a three month public consultation exercise, Health Minister Lord Warner confirmed details of a major reorganisation of the ambulance service in England.  From 1 July 2006 there will be 12 NHS ambulance trusts in England, with mergers of many of the existing 29 trusts.

The Department of Health said that by creating fewer larger ambulance trusts, there will be less bureaucracy, more money to invest in front line services and better care for patients.

Lord Warner said that last year’s strategic review of ambulance services set out how ambulance trusts can build on improvements in response times to life-threatening situations, and also how NHS ambulance staff can go beyond their traditional role and also deliver more NHS services closer to home.

He added that “to make this vision a reality, organisational changes are necessary to create more strategic capability."

The Department of Health said that where there have been local concerns voiced, they have 'provided assurances that the new ambulance trusts will be required to meet the needs of local people within their boundaries.'

There was very strong opposition to proposals in the West Midlands; Staffordshire ambulance trust will remain a separate trust for now, working in partnership with the new West Midlands ambulance trust until a merger is agreed at a later date.

The Department sited the benefits of creating larger trusts as;

- More investment in front-line services as trusts make savings in ‘back-room’ functions;
- Improved patient care by providing an opportunity to raise the standards of service provided by all trusts to the level of the best;
- Better emergency planning with greater capacity and capability to respond to major incidents of all kinds;
- More integrated services and better career opportunities for staff.

However opposition parties attacked the moves; speaking of the changes in the ambulance service and the reduction in numbers of PCTs, also announced by the Department of Health, Shadow Health Minister Stephen O'Brien said it was "change for changes sake".

Niall Dickson, of the King's Fund, said he was not convinced that a complete reorganisation of the health service at such a crucial time was the right thing to do.
 

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