PLANS to create a single ambulance service for the South West are nearing completion with a recommendation to approve the process now with the Secretary of State for Health.

If they are given the go-ahead, South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) will take on services currently provided by Great Western Ambulance Service NHS Trust (GWAS) from February 1.

The new organisation would serve a population of over 5.3 million people.

The idea of amalgamation was first proposed in August 2011 when GWAS announced it was not in a position to become a foundation trust, a status the Department of Health now wants all ambulance services to gain, in its own right. It looked for a partner organisation and announced last October that SWASFT was the preferred option.

Ken Wenman, chief executive of both organisations, said: "The two trusts’ desire in October 2011 to create a partnership was based on a real confidence that it was in the best interests of patients, staff and taxpayers. Over the past year, the proposals and accompanying business case have rightly been subjected to rigorous scrutiny by a range of external bodies, as well as by the trusts’ boards.

"It is reassuring that at no stage of the process have there been any concerns that the partnership should not proceed and we are now looking forward to receiving final approval from the Secretary of State."

He said the two trusts had consulted people widely on the plans and would continue to engage with them over the changes expected to take place next year. "Throughout this period, we have also sought to actively engage with the communities we serve and their representatives to update them on our plans and to reassure people that our commitment is to improve the care and service we provide to patients," said Mr Wenman.

"A huge amount of work has been done – and continues to be done by staff of both trusts to ensure a smooth integration. This has been achieved while focusing on continuing to meet all national performance standards and deliver excellent patient care.

"I therefore welcome this opportunity to publicly acknowledge and thank all staff from both organisations for their commitment and dedication during what I know is an unsettling time."