PAC calls for clarity over ambulance commissioning

16 September 2011

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16 September 2011 | Adam Leach

Greater clarity is needed over who handles the commissioning of ambulance services and who is charged with delivering efficiency savings, according to a report.

The Committee of Public Accounts (PAC) voiced its concern about the impact that NHS reforms will have on the running of ambulance services across the UK. The report, published today, called on the Department of Health (DH) to make it clear what responsibilities will be held by commissioning groups, ambulance trusts and the DH, especially in relation to managing the service, improving efficiency and providing funds if the service runs into financial difficulties.

Committee chairwoman Margaret Hodge said: “We are concerned about the accountability of ambulance services following reform. It is not yet clear who will be responsible for improving efficiency, nor which body will intervene to protect 999 services if an ambulance service gets into financial difficulty, seriously underperforms or even fails.”

The report, which assessed the value for money provided by ambulance services in the UK, also called on the government to look to make savings by increasing collaboration between the emergency services in relation to purchasing. While the ambulance service already carries out joint procurement of radio systems and petrol with police and fire services, the committee called for the Cabinet Office’s Efficiency & Reform Group (ERG) to conduct an independent review to explore how joint procurement can be extended. The PAC says the ambulance service accepts “more could be done” and is already looking into the joint purchasing of uniforms.

The committee added it was concerned that individual ambulance services would opt to reduce non-core services such as paramedics in GP surgeries to create efficiencies instead of reducing sickness absences and overtime hours.

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