SECRETARY of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, has approved plans for South Western Ambulance Service Foundation Trust (SWASFT) and Great Western Ambulance Service (GWAS) to join forces.
The ministerial signature on the formal GWAS Dissolution Order paves the way for the creation of a single ambulance service for the South West from Friday, February 1, when SWASFT will take on the services currently provided GWAS – creating an organisation serving a resident population of over 5.3 million people.
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.”
Ken Wenman, who has acted as interim chief executive of GWAS for the past year as well as chief executive for SWAFT for many years, added: “I have met many skilled and committed clinicians and managers within GWAS, mirroring the expertise I know we have in SWASFT.
“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.”
Heather Strawbridge, Chairman of SWASFT, said she wanted to thank all the staff from both trusts who have worked – and continue to work – so hard to make the partnership a reality.
"It has been a pleasure to work with Peter Carr on this project and I thank him for his leadership of GWAS which means our new, expanded SWASFT is starting from a strong operational and clinical position," he 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.”