ELECTION STALLS AMBULANCE MERGER TALKS

Talks over the future of ambulance services in Mid Sussex have been delayed by the General Election.

They involve a suggested merger between the Sussex Ambulance Service NHS Trust and the service in Kent.

About three million people would be served instead of about 1.5 million presently served in Sussex.

Details had already been sent to Community Health Councils for discussion and public meetings were lined up for three months from May 3.

But all discussion of the issue has now been suspended until the the General Election has been held on June 7.

A spokesman for the ambulance trust said the planned three-month consultation period would be extended to take into account the suspension, but no further comment was being made about the merger meanwhile.

At one time the idea of a South East regional-wide service covering as many as seven ambulance services was discussed, but it was rejected in favour of smaller mergers.

It is not thought at this stage that there would be any job losses among crews if the merger is approved, as it is thought to be primarily focussed on improving administration and sharing of information.

If the link with Kent goes ahead it will be the second major change for ambulance services in this area and the rest of Sussex.

At one time West Sussex and East Sussex ran their own services, but these were merged in to the present county-wide NHS Trust six years ago.

Now managers are considering whether they could improve the service to patients with the latest move.

Published: 21.5.01 West Sussex Newspapers Ltd