Wales politics

New name plan in Welsh ambulance shake-up

Welsh ambulance outside Glan Clwyd Hospital A&E
Image caption A new name is being considered for the ambulance service as part of a shake-up

The Welsh ambulance trust could be renamed and a commissioner appointed to oversee it, says the Welsh government.

A consultation document says the new body would be called the Welsh Emergency and Clinical Services NHS Trust.

It follows a review of how the service operates in Wales earlier this year.

The health minister believes the new name better reflects the emergency response and wider range of services on offer from the trust.

A Chief Ambulance Services Commissioner post would also be created, with the job of advising local health boards about ambulance services.

The new consultation follows a turbulent period for the Welsh ambulance service.

Last month was the first time since May 2012 that ambulance crews met targets to reach 65% of the most serious emergencies within eight minutes.

An investigation last week by the BBC also revealed that patients in Wales wait longer on average than others in the UK to be transferred to A&E departments from an ambulance.

Local control

Under the new plans, the Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust would be renamed, with local health boards asked to establish an 'Emergency Ambulances Services Committee'.

The new committee would effectively hand control of ambulance services to the health boards, allowing them to set the level of service they need in each area of Wales.

That role is currently carried out by a body known as the Welsh Health Specialised Services Committee (WHSSC), which is also responsible for providing a wide-range of other services.

"The Welsh government believes removing the responsibility for commissioning ambulance services from WHSSC, commissioners of over 90 different types of services, and placing it with the new Emergency Ambulance Services Committee, specifically tasked with focusing on robustly planned commissioning Emergency ambulance services, is the most effective approach for Wales," states the consultation document.

In addition, the new chief commissioner post would be appointed.

The government says the post would be the first of its kind in Wales, both advising health boards and policing how their policies are implemented.

'Greater understanding'

"The Chief Ambulance Services Commissioner will be responsible for monitoring the ambulance services' performance against national standards and take action if the Trust does not meet agreed standards," added the consultation.

"The Welsh government believes ambulance service staff should be empowered to deliver high quality, clinically-effective, evidence-based services which deliver far more than a transport service for life-threatened patients."

It is also argued that a new name for the trust reflects the wide-range of service already provided by ambulance staff, including clinical triage over the phone, pre-hospital medicine by specialist doctors, and 'treat-at-scene' services that avoid the need for hospitalisation.

Health Minister Mark Drakeford believes a new name will better describe the emergency response and clinical service being provided.

"The Welsh government believes the 'Welsh Emergency and Clinical Services NHS Trust' reflects the range of clinical services delivered by trust staff, and will engender a greater understanding of when to appropriately access the service among the public."

The public consultation is open until 13 February, 2014.

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