Fewer ambulances at night

Ambulances outside Accident and Emergency (A&E), Wigan hospital
Ambulances outside Accident and Emergency (A&E), Wigan hospital

AMBULANCE chiefs have defended proposals to cut the amount of ambulances available to the borough during the night despite criticism from union bosses.

Under what North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) chiefs have dubbed a ‘review of services’ the GMB union claim the trust plan to reduce night cover in Wigan (along with Bury, Bolton and Carlisle) as part of a wider £14m savings programme.

The union also say that while the trust is tasked with such savings it is doing so with a ‘£34m underspend sitting in its bank.’

Ray Carrick, GMB regional officer, said: “NWAS has been set a cost improvement plan target of £10.5 million per year but, in the last two years, they have added over £2 million to this target. They have gone on to over-achieve each of these targets.

“They report that as of the March 31 2013 they were able to bank an additional £14.7 million to make their cash in the bank almost £34 million.

“GMB is asking for clarity on why front line emergency vehicles and services to the patient are being axed.”

However, NWAS chiefs have denied the claims.

Alan Stuttard, deputy chief executive and director of finance for NWAS said: “All NHS trusts are required to make savings and NWAS needs to save £13.8m in this financial year – this equates to £6m from corporate services, £6m from emergency services and £1m from our patient transport services.

“The £34m is not under-spend but monies set aside at the end of the financial year for costs and possible liabilities for example, the tax, national insurance and pensions contributions based on March salaries, the need to invest money to improve systems which could save money in the longer term, any possible claims made against the trust or to pay outstanding bills received in March.

“In terms of corporate services, we are currently undertaking a review of services and it is possible that this may result in the loss of posts throughout the region.

“Any removal of services is done following a quality impact assessment as the trust strives to ensure that the care we currently provide to patients is maintained and these proposals are still under discussion. We are discussing the savings we have to make with our staff. We have met with the unions to discuss savings we propose to make and possible ways we can achieve these.”