Commenting on reports that the Strategic Health Authority has ordered
Staffordshire and West Midlands ambulance trusts to draw up a detailed
timetable by June 1st for how a full merger will be implemented, Michael
Fabricant says "In a recent one to one meeting with Anthony Marsh, the
Chief Executive of the West Midlands Ambulance Service, I have insisted
that if a merger does take place, separate performance figures for the/
Staffordshire arm of the new amalgamated ambulance service must continue
to be published. Anthony Marsh has assured me that this will be the
case. Meanwhile, I am now concerned to have just learnt that
Staffordshire community first responders are under attack again: this
time they are being told not to respond to incidents involving children
and are being told they can’t use blue lights in an emergency. I will
be monitoring developments closely and will have further meetings with
Anthony Marsh to discuss this retrograde step.
"With regard to the proposed amalgamation, I am prepared to accept this
provided that high standards in Staffordshire continue to be maintained
and are not jeopardised. For that reason it important that we can
continue to monitor the performance of the ambulance service in
Staffordshire and compare it with other services. All the data
available now must continue to be available after the merger and not be
absorbed into aggregated west midlands data. And the work of community
first responders must be secured too.
"I still think it important that performance levels for the West
Midlands, particularly their ability to resuscitate victims with cardiac
arrest, begin to approach the high standards achieved in Staffordshire
before a full merger takes place. This has not happened yet. But the
good news is that latest figures show a dramatic narrowing of the gap in
999 response times between the internationally-acclaimed Staffordshire
service, and the rest of the West Midlands. The statistics show that the
previous gap of 20% has narrowed to less than three per cent for the
past three weeks. I hope west midlands can continue to keep it up. It
is vital that they do so. In Staffordshire, 82.5 per cent of emergency
calls brought a paramedic to the scene within eight minutes – compared
to 80.1 per cent in the West Midlands regional ambulance trust, which
was created last year from three former services covering Birmingham,
Hereford and Worcester and Warwickshire. Staffordshire community first
responders have a large part to play in this."
Staffordshire Ambulance receives 125,326 emergency calls every year.
Back at the end of February, Michael Fabricant raised the timing of the
merger with Tony Blair .
Michael Fabricant (Lichfield) (Con): Will he will make a statement on
the proposed merger of the West Midlands and Staffordshire ambulance
The Prime Minister: As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for
Health announced on 16 May, the intention is that Staffordshire
Ambulance Service NHS Trust and the West Midlands Ambulance Service NHS
Trust should work together to prepare for a merger. A timetable has not
been set for the merger, but a partnership board has been established to
take forward work relating to it.
Michael Fabricant: I am grateful to the Prime Minister for that answer.
He might know that in fact a merger is now being proposed. The Health
Secretary gave assurances to Staffordshire Members of Parliament that
there would be no merger until the West Midlands trust had reached the
same high standard as Staffordshire. However, if, God forbid, one was to
have a cardiac arrest in Staffordshire, one would have a 60 per cent.
chance of recovery, whereas in the west midlands one would have a 65 per
cent. chance of dying. That high standard has not yet been reached, yet
a merger is still being proposed. What can the Prime Minister say to
people in Staffordshire to assure them that our ambulance service will
not be downgraded through that merger?
The Prime Minister: The hon. Gentleman makes a perfectly reasonable
point. Obviously, the terms of the merger are extremely important.
Within the past few days, the partnership board chairman has said:
"the whole process is about levelling up performance.
Staffordshire leads the country in certain areas"-
I think that he was talking about the idea of the return of spontaneous
and it is the task of the West Midlands Trust to bring
its performance up to those levels."
In other words, this is clearly about the West Midlands trust coming up
to the very high standard that has been set by Staffordshire, not the
other way round.
Later, the Prime Minister wrote to Michael Fabricant to clarify his
position and said in his letter:-
"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 patient."