UNISON, the largest trade union at the Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust (WAST), today broadly welcomed the changes to the service announced by Welsh government health minister Mark Drakeford.
The ambulance service in Wales will now be directly responsible to a body made up of the seven health boards.
Dr Drakeford said that priorities for the service would in future be based on “clearer and more transparent criteria”.
The move is in response to poor performance and missed targets. The service has recently been scrutinised by health academic Professor Siobhan McLelland, who found significant issues, including concerns about accountability.
Darron Dupre, UNISON’s ambulance sector head in Wales, commented: “It is quite clear that Dr Drakeford has a clear feel and understanding for the issues surrounding WAST and how its performance will improve through collaboration with health boards as well as ambulance staff.
“We are particularly pleased that most of UNISON’s recommendations to the McClelland Review have been accepted.
“Performance targets will now be quality and outcome driven, rather than solely time driven. Paramedics will be trained and empowered to make a wider range of clinically safe and effective decisions, which will reduce reliance on A&E departments as repositories for patients who don’t need to be there.
“In terms of moving patients transport to health boards, UNISON will be writing to the minister imminently to advise him on our views in terms of patients safety and patient care.”
Mr Dupre added that at a time when health boards were restructuring services and trying to get their unplanned and urgent care services working well, “now is surely not the time to be diverting attention away and managing the split up and TUPE transfer of hundreds of patient care service staff and their infrastructure into the seven health boards.
“UNISON is currently working through how the governance arrangements with health boards will work. We will, however, support any upgrade in relationships between WAST and health boards.”
Dr Drakeford also announced a consultation exercise to rename the ambulance service.
And Mr Dupre felt that staff would be anxious for the new name of the organisation to reflect what it does.
“Whether Welsh Emergency Medical Service describes exactly what the service does, for example, is a moot point. UNISON will fully engage in a consultation exercise and will be asking members for their views.”