September 10, 2008

Great Western Ambulance Service Under Pressure to Make Sweeping Changes

By phil skelton, health reporter

Health chiefs in rural areas of Gloucestershire are calling for sweeping changes to Great Western Ambulance Service.

Health scrutiny members of Cotswold, Stroud and Forest of Dean District Councils want to see more training and better equipment for community first responders and more two manned ambulances on the roads.

They also want more realistic response times for ambulances responding to emergency calls and more resources provided by the service in Gloucestershire.

The recommendations follow a 12 month investigation by rural councils following concerns over the inability of the ambulance service to reach emergency patients within eight minutes in their areas.

Council officials reported their findings at a meeting of Gloucestershire Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee yesterday, less than a week after the announced resignation of under fire chief executive Tim Lynch.

Coun Ray Apperley (C, Stroud), said: "We knew before we started that the performance of GWAS was among the worst in the country.

"A lot of work has been done by the trust to reach patients faster with rapid response vehicles and community first responders."

Coun Andrew Gravells (C, Abbey), chairman, said: "There is still a lot more work to do to address problems with the ambulance service.

"There are concerns that rural areas do not get the same number of ambulances and when they do they are diverted to urban areas.

Detailed recommendations from each council will be taken to the joint ambulance scrutiny committee for discussion and approval.

The committee will also consider the service's current funding and savings made since its amalgamation in 2006.

GWAS is working with Gloucestershire's Primary Care Trust to address the issues raised in the report.

Jan Stubbings, Chief Executive of the PCT, said: "There is a real commitment to work together to improve response times and services for local patients across the county.

"We welcome the joint arrangements that have been put in place to oversee and review the improvements that will be made in the coming year. We have challenges to face, but we are determined to work together with GWAS to deliver better and faster care for the patients of Gloucestershire."

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