Great Western Ambulance emergency callouts most expensive

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Great Western Ambulance Service (GWAS) emergency callouts are the most expensive in England, it has emerged.

A Commons Public Accounts Committee report said the cost of GWAS responding to 999 calls was £216 per call compared with £144 in the North East.

It said that ambulance services focusing on response time targets had led to "inefficiencies".

GWAS has said it is considering having a partnership organisation to save money.

Eleven regional ambulance services operating across England were examined for "the value for money" they provide, for the report.

Following its publication, the committee's chairman Margaret Hodge MP said the variation in the cost of responding to calls across the trusts was "unacceptable".

"In the Great Western area it's 50% more per 999 call than it is in the North East," she said.

"That sort of variation is unacceptable and if the Great Western can get their costs down there's more money released for front line services in the NHS."

Smallest trust

In August, GWAS announced that it was considering a partnership with another organisation in a bid to save money and improve patient care.

GWAS spokesman John Oliver said the trust had recognised that providing "better value for money" was "essential in the current climate".

"It is the smallest ambulance trust in the country so inevitably many of its fixed costs - such as clinical governance, call-handling technology etc - are spread over a smaller number of incidents," he said.

"With the requirement for all NHS trusts to become foundation trusts, the Board of GWAS decided that it is not viable to continue an independent application and the right course of action is to see to link with a partner organisation for the future."

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

For the year ending 31 March 2011, GWAS responded to almost 100,000 Category A (immediately life-threatening) 999 calls out of a total of 264,563 emergencies.

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