'No merger' at troubled East Midlands Ambulance trust

Image caption EMAS recently applied for a loan after finishing the year £12m in debt

A troubled ambulance trust in talks with a neighbouring service about working together more closely has ruled out a full merger.

East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS) is struggling financially and has some of the worst response times in England.

It is thought the trust's non-executive directors had discussed merging with West Midlands Ambulance Service.

Pauline Tagg, chair of EMAS, said support from the West Midlands is being considered but ruled out a merger.

Both trusts said discussions on a "range of options" had taken place but talks were at an early stage.

The two services together cover a population of 10.4m people and cover 11,500 sq miles.

Missing targets

EMAS recently applied for a loan after ending the year £12m in debt, and chief executive Sue Noyes stood down last month. Its response times to the highest-priority emergency calls in 2014-15 were well below national targets.

It is understood EMAS first approached the West Midlands trust - which had some of the best response times in the country - for help around six weeks ago.

Image caption Dr Anthony Marsh is the chief executive of West Midlands Ambulance Service

In a letter to staff, chairwoman Pauline Tagg said she had been talking to WMAS about the potential for chief executive Dr Anthony Marsh, to provide support.

"This option, and others, is still being explored and discussions have not yet come to a conclusion," she said.

It is understood Mr Marsh, who previously took on a part-time role as head of the East of England Ambulance Service, was interviewed by EMAS.

However, sources told the BBC Dr Marsh, who was heavily criticised over his salary in the dual roles, was concerned he would face similar attacks if he stepped in to oversee the East Midlands Trust.

In a statement, West Midlands Ambulance Service confirmed it had been approached "to explore how we might assist" and "a range of options" had been discussed but nothing yet agreed.

Image caption Sue Noyes stood down from her role as East Midlands chief executive earlier this year

Dr Iestyn Williams, senior lecturer in health policy and management at the Health Services Management Centre in Birmingham, said that large mergers are complex and often do not provide the anticipated benefits.

"It can cost millions of pounds and run into years.

"The productivity and efficiency can be affected and it can be years before the benefits materialise."

How the services compare:

West Midlands Ambulance Service

Serves population of 5.6m

Area: More than 5,000 sq miles covering Shropshire, Herefordshire, Worcestershire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire, Coventry, Birmingham and Black Country

Number of calls a day: 3,000

Number of staff: 4,000

East Midlands Ambulance Service

Serves population of: 4.8m

Area: 6,425 square miles covering Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Rutland, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire and Nottinghamshire

Number of calls a day: 2,000

Number of staff: 2,700

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