Ambulance merger prompts concern

A MERGER of East Anglia's six ambulance services has been given the go-ahead, it has emerged.Andy Burnham, Secretary of State for Delivery and Quality, has approved the formation of a region-wide ambulance trust, covering the six counties of Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Essex.

By Danielle Nuttall

A MERGER of East Anglia's six ambulance services has been given the go-ahead, it has emerged.

Andy Burnham, Secretary of State for Delivery and Quality, has approved the formation of a region-wide ambulance trust, covering the six counties of Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Essex.

The new service will be the largest geographically in the country, covering about 7,500 square miles and serving more than five million people.


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It will be called the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust and the appointments of a Chairman and Chief Executive are likely to be announced shortly.

Dr Chris Carney, Chief Executive of the East Anglian Ambulance Trust, said the merger should provide benefits for patients.

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“This provides a real opportunity for improvements in patient care,” he added.

“We already have three high performing ambulance services in the East of England and, through sharing best practice over a wider area, we hope to see these high standards maintained and improved upon.”

Keith Pearson, chairman of the Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire Strategic Health Authority, said: “I am pleased to see the formation of the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust.

“I look forward to working closely with the new organization, which will be formally established on 1 July 2006, as we drive forward the reforms to deliver a better NHS for the future.”

Currently, the East Anglian Ambulance Trust covers Cambridgeshire, Suffolk and Norfolk.

Under the new merger, it would amalgamate with counterparts in Essex, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire.

The proposals were the result of a series of recommendations outlined in the Taking Healthcare to the Patient document, published in June last year by national ambulance advisor Peter Bradley and an expert panel. They were the subject of a public consultation between December and March.

In a statement, Essex Ambulance Service NHS Trust said: “Essex Ambulance Service is welcoming a decision by the Government to support plans for a re-organisation of ambulance services in England.

“The decision follows three months of public consultations between December and March.

“For Essex it will mean forming a new organisation along with Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Ambulance Service and East Anglian Ambulance Service which covers Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire.”

But the new arrangement has provoked a number of concerns, mainly about the size of the area the new trust will have to cover.

West Chelmsford MP Simon Burns said: “I predict that the merger of the Essex Ambulance Trust with the other ambulance trusts in the Eastern region to create a super-size trust will be a disaster.

“It is far too large an area geographically and far too great a population number for one trust.

“Essex Ambulance Trust provided a first rate service and I fear that it being submerged into an eastern region trust will not be in the best interests of my constituents of Essex.”

Ann Sefton, who campaigned for an extra ambulance in her home town of Chelmsford after her son was killed in a road accident, said she would consider fighting against the merger.

A former ambulance driver, Mrs Sefton lost her 32-year-old son Tony Sefton in May 2003 after he had a motorcycle accident in Gloucester Avenue, Chelmsford.

It took an ambulance 26 minutes to arrive after the initial 999 call leading to Mrs Sefton's campaign which saw an extra ambulance being based in Chelmsford, making a total of three.

She said last night: “I am not terribly happy and would fight them on it. We can't cover the areas we have now.

“At the end of the day, if the ambulances are taken out of Chelmsford for other areas then what is going to happen to the Chelmsford people?”

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