South West ambulance merger approved by health secretary

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Plans to create a single ambulance service for south-west England have been approved by the health secretary.

Great Western Ambulance Service NHS Trust (GWAS) is to merge with South Western Ambulance Service Foundation Trust (SWASFT) to create a single foundation trust from 1 February.

The new trust will cover an area from Gloucestershire down to Cornwall.

A GWAS spokesman said the merger would see some job cuts but said frontline services would not be affected.

A formal GWAS Dissolution Order was signed by Jeremy Hunt earlier in the week, a spokesman said.

It "paves the way" for the creation of a single ambulance service, with a workforce of about 4,000, serving a resident population of more than 5.3 million people.

Ken Wenman, chief executive of both organisations, said he was looking forward to the "great opportunity - 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." he said.

'Unsettling time'

GWAS chairman Peter Carr paid tribute to 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," he said.

GWAS provides emergency care and patient transport services across Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, the greater Bristol area and parts of Somerset.

The trust employs more than 1,680 staff across 33 operational sites.

South Western Ambulance Service covers parts of Dorset and Somerset, and Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. It employs 2,200 staff.

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