South West ambulance merger will help deal with cuts, says health chief
AN AMBULANCE trust has been given wider responsibility for services across the South West after the Government approved a merger between the two serving trusts.
The new joint trust, which comes into existence today, will be responsible for serving a resident population of over five million people and expects to answer 2,000 emergency response calls a day.
The partnernship merger between South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) and Great Western Ambulance Service (GWAS) will now cover the areas of Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and the former Avon, as well as Devon, Cornwall, Dorset, Somerset, the Isles of Scilly.
It will employ 4,000 staff over 100 sites and has around 1,000 vehicles at its disposal.
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The decision to join forces was given the go-ahead by Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, last month after the completion of a public consultation.
Trust managers believe the move will allow them to be more flexible with budgets in the face of Government spending cuts.
Critics of the change say that local needs will suffer as the area is too large to offer a personal service but health chief, Ken Wenman, disputed the claim.
Mr Wenman, Chief Executive of the enlarged SWASFT, said: "With a larger workforce, we now have greater resilience and flexibility to meet the challenges in healthcare in the months and years ahead.
"Also, we are better able to invest in cutting-edge treatment and research, and to continue to train our staff to better care for patients in the out-of-hospital environment.
"As a foundation trust with a Council of Governors and public members from across the region, we will work directly with those communities to ensure we are responding to patient needs in the most appropriate way."