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Plan to merge ambulance services scrapped

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A CONTROVERSIAL proposal to merge the Kent Ambulance Service with the neighbouring service in Sussex have been abandoned. Health minister Hazel Blears announced the climb down today.

It follows a lengthy public consultation process which had seen widespread opposition to the merger plan. Critics feared that response times and the effectiveness of the service in Kent would be undermined. The government had set out moves to merge seven ambulance trusts in the south east to create three new ones.

Kent would have been merged with Sussex in a scheme which would have cost at least £2.6million. Now ministers have backtracked, saying merger is no longer the way forward in the wake of recent policy announcements aimed at making the ambulance service “more responsive to local needs.”

Mrs Blears said: “We’ve taken on board the views of local people and the planned changes will not go ahead. We are committed to saving more lives by providing faster, more responsive and effective emergency services.”

Bill Jones, deputy chief executive of the Kent Ambulance Trust, said: “We are pleased a decision has been made as we have been operating in a period of uncertainty for three years. That has had an impact on the organisation as a whole. We now look forward to working with the local NHS via Kent’s strategic health authority to improve and develop a better service.”

Faversham and Mid Kent MP Hugh Robertson, who had spearheaded opposition to the plan and held a parliamentary debate in November, said: “I am delighted. I always argued that Kent is large enough to support its own ambulance service and has its own very specific needs. Trying to stick Kent in with other counties was always a flawed idea."

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