Great Western Ambulance Service: Wikis


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Map of the Great Western Ambulance Service's coverage

The Great Western Ambulance Service NHS Trust (GWAS) is a UK National Health Service (NHS) trust providing emergency and non emergency patient transport services to Bath and North East Somerset, Bristol, Gloucestershire, North Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire in the South West England region. It was formed on 1 April 2006, from the merger of the Avon, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire ambulance services.

It is one of twelve Ambulance Trusts providing England with free Emergency medical services, and is part of the National Health Service, receiving direct government funding for its role.



The Trust headquarters is at Jenner House, Chippenham, Wiltshire.

The Trust has one main call handling control room ("EOC - Emergency Operations Centre") and two "dispatch centres". The main control room, the EOC at Acuma House, Almondsbury, has been recognised as a Centre of Excellence for emergency call handling and dispatch for 2006, 2007 and 2008. One of the EOC team received the International EMD of the Year Award 2007. The EOC in Quedgeley, Gloucestershire, is also the hub for the Gloucestershire out-of-hours "urgent care" service.

In common with all UK ambulance services, the control room triages and categorises 999 calls into three categories - A, B, and C. Category A are potentially life threatening emergencies requiring an immediate response. Category B are potentially serious but not life threatening emergencies. Category C require do not require an emergency response and are relayed to NHS Direct, specially trained paramedics or nurses for over-the-phone advice, GP services or Emergency Care Practitioners(ECP).[1]

Avon hosts the south-west's primary Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear (CBRN) terrorist response capability and has been praised for its well governed and effective First Response scheme.


999 calls to the service have doubled in the last ten years.[1]

The Department of Health lays down performance targets:[1]

  • to reach 75% of immediately life threatening emergencies (category A) within 8 minutes
  • to reach 95% of non life threatening emergencies (category B) within 19 minutes
  • where a doctor requests an ambulance for a patient under the Doctors' Urgent Standard, to deliver 95% of patients within 1, 2 or 4 hour targets, as requested by the health care professional.

The service was meeting the targets for Category A8 calls by March 2008. In April 2008 the way the government targets are measured was changed to be more stringent. Performance against these new "Call Connect" targets was a new challenge but the Trust is now meeting the A8 and A19 targets.


The Primary Care Trust (PCT) and the Ambulance Service plan to increase the number of Emergency Care Practitioner (ECP) and nurses skilled in urgent care assessment to generate a reduction in the number of people transported by ambulance to an emergency department.[1]


Formed on 1 April 2006, from the merger of the Avon, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire ambulance services, the trust had a difficult start, marked by redundancies, closure of its training centre and the threat of ambulance station closures.

This caused strained industrial relations [2] with its recognised union, UNISON, and attacks from the local media. From the date of merger, Great Western Ambulance Service struggled to achieve the Department of Health Key Performance Indicators and in 2007-2008 the Trust lost two contracts for non-emergency Patient Transport Services (PTS) to private contractors. Huge numbers of ambulance shifts were covered by private agencies.[3]

In September 2008, the Chief Executive, Tim Lynch resigned. He was replaced by an Interim Chief Executive, Anthony Marsh, from West Midlands Ambulance Service.[4]. Marsh identified a lack of operational leadership and a "competition of priorities" within management and removed two Directors (the Director of Operations and Director of Corporate Development).[5]

Marsh reinvigorated the relationship between the Trust and its employees, struck up a new relationship with UNISON and fought an energetic campaign to bring reassurance the prublic and promote the service with a positive media presence. The Executive Team was reorganised to streamline internal lines of management and bring local accountability with the appointment of three "Locality Directors" for each of the three sectors, based loosely on county boundaries.

A recruitment campaign was launched to recruit and train phone operators and Emergency Care Assistants (the lowest grade of emergency ambulance staff).[6]

In February 2009, a ceremony was held to present almost 60 staff, partner agencies and members of the public with Chief Executive Commendations.

Vehicle fleet


  • PTS & HDU - Renault Master
  • A&E - Mercedes Sprinter
  • RRV - Ford Focus, Honda CRV but now standardising on Vauxhall Astra and Vauxhall Zafira


  • PTS - Renault Master
  • A&E - Renault Master but now standardising on Mercedes Sprinter
  • RRV - Renault Scenic, Honda CRV but now standardising on Vauxhall Astra and Zafira


  • PTS - Renault Master
  • A&E - Renault Master but now standardising on Mercedes Sprinter
  • RRV - Renault Megane, Honda CRV but now standardising on Vauxhall Astra and Vauxhall Zafira

The latest addition to the vehicle fleet are £140,000 Mercedes Sprinter coach-built ambulances [7] converted by WAS of Germany.[8] Although they are visually impressive and expensive, they represent little new advances over the smaller, cheaper, faster and less complex Mercedes Sprinter UVG Premia ambulances they replaced in Avon. A lack of on-the-road testing (the first batch delivered sat at the Trust HQ for six months) has resulted in later batches not being updated with essential modifications. The hydraulic taillifts are not approved for use by the manufacturers on slopes greater than 5 degrees, the £3,000 Stryker Rugged wheel chairs lack a £30 foot rest, the Ferno Falcon trolley stretchers do not fit inside as many premises as the competing manufacturer's and the ambulances do not have a light switch by the doors for crews to switch on the interior lights when they load a patient at night. They have also been criticised by crews for the design of the storage space for equipment, with standard items of medical equipment left crammed in cupboards and which left staff under 5'8" struggling to reach some items of immobilisation equipment from the external lockers.

Previous to the WAS of Germany-built ambulances GWAS received a batch of UVG Modular ambulances.[9]

Teething problems aside, the Mercedes ambulances represent a big step forward from the aging Renault Master ambulances in Wiltshire and Gloucestershire, many of which had to be removed from service when they were found not to meet modern safety standards.[10]

See also


External links



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