Serious questions should be asked about reports that two financially challenged ambulance trusts in the east and west Midlands could merge, with a possible adverse effect on patient care.
Unite, the country’s largest union with 100,000 members in the health service, has called on the respective NHS managements to be fully transparent and engage with the public on future plans.
The two trusts look after a total of about 10 million people and together employ nearly 7,000 staff.
Unite regional officer Adrian Ross said: “Unite has a number of concerns about speculation circulating of a potential merger between West Midlands Ambulance Service (WMAS) and East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS).
“Unite is aware that WMAS is currently going through a redundancy exercise due to extreme financial pressures and understands that WMAS needs to make cuts totalling £11.7 million this financial year (2016/2017).
“We have serious concerns about the impact this merger will have on the service to communities across the Midlands. We also have reservations about the impact of any merger on our members’ employment within a newly established trust.
“Recent events like the one in Telford where no ambulances were available to transport a young boy to A&E which required the fire brigade to step in clearly demonstrate that the service is stretched to and possibly beyond its limits.
“We also note that EMAS has equally challenging service and financial pressures as it faces a £12 million deficit.
“Any merger would have to demonstrate a commitment to quality patient care and a long term commitment to the retention and recruitment of a highly skilled and dedicated workforce.
“Dialogue between management and the unions has been very sparse and infrequent with a lot of denials flying around despite the continuing media reports.”
Unite is concerned about the amount of cross-border support that is currently being given. For example, the Coventry and Warwickshire areas are extremely short of staff, but have been regularly called upon to provide support into Leicestershire, leaving their own area of operations stretched to breaking point.
This scenario is also being repeated in Staffordshire where their crews are been called into Derbyshire with increasing regularity.
There are also worries that as ambulance staff are out of area, there will be a growing reliance on the less qualified community responders to plug the gaps.
Adrian Ross added: “Staff side in the west Midlands are convinced that the current wave of redundancies and cost improvement programmes are not the last.
“If the merger goes ahead, we are concerned about the future location of services, but again the future remains opaque due to the reluctance of management to uphold the trust values of openness, honesty and transparency.
“Now is the time for the ambulance trust bosses in both regions to come clean with the public and give a frank explanation as to how they see the future and the impact it may have on already strained services.”
Notes to editors:
For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940. Email: email@example.com
- Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.