Following Michael Fabricant’s questions to the Prime Minister on the merger of the Staffordshire Ambulance Service with the West Midlands Ambulance Service on Wednesday 28th February (see http://www.michael.fabricant.mp.co.uk/news-00684.ihtml), Michael wrote to the Prime Minister asking whether his view is that the two Ambulance
Services should not merge UNTIL the West Midlands Ambulance Service had reached the high standards of the Staffordshire service.
The Prime Minister has now written to Michael Fabricant and the contents of his letter is reproduced below.
10 Downing Street
12th March 2007
Thank you for your letter of 5 March regarding our exchange at Prime Minister’s Questions on 28 February (official report columns 922-923).
The Department of Health expects ambulance trusts to meet national standards. At present, both trusts are meeting or exceeding national standards in relation to response times and cardiac care.
As I made clear at Prime Minister’s Questions, this is about levelling up standards, not levelling down and that continues to be our overriding concern. However, we would expect that this will happen over time, both before and after any merger. Therefore, it continues to be for the NHS
locally to determine when there is sufficient convergence to allow merger to go forward, and the Secretary of State for Health would consider a request to merge, were it to be made, on that basis.
Last year, the Department of Health made clear that it remained convinced that the right course of action was for the two trusts to merge, but that the timescale for merger was a local decision. That remains the case, and in the interim, I would hope that the improvement demonstrated by both trusts in recent months will continue, as clearly
this is in the best interests of patients……..
Michael now says: "Many will be disappointed by this reply. Staffordshire MPs were assured less than a year ago that no merger would be allowed until the West Midlands Ambulance Service had reached the high standards of that of Staffordshire. That undertaking has been broken. I do not share the well known optimism of the Prime Minister
which in so many instances recently has proven to be false. I hope for the sake of people in Staffordshire that this time at least his optimism will be justified."