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Five ambulance service trusts are forming a group, which will include joint projects on artificial intelligence, and a potential move to standardisation and joint procurement of vehicles.

The five southern ambulance services — South East Coast, East of England, London, South Central and South West — told HSJ the move would not lead to a merger or consolidation of back office functions.

Instead they said their “Southern Ambulance Services Collaboration” would focus on service improvement, sharing best practice, and joint work on shared challenges.

South East Coast CEO Simon Weldon, who will chair the collaboration for its first six months, said: “We think collaborative action is better than ploughing our own furrow. We are a coalition of the willing who have chosen to be there… We see an opportunity to seize the moment and make a difference. It is about levelling up.”

Initial areas the trusts will look at include: operating models; employment issues, such as occupational health and wellbeing; computer systems and interoperability; adoption of digital initiatives including AI; and leveraging collective power in procurement.

A key aim is to avoid duplication. For example, all ambulance trusts are looking at how they can use AI, but will now jointly fund work on potential AI solutions. They also want to eliminate inefficiencies, such as by harmonising driver training, which is not currently recognised when staff move between trusts, meaning they have to retrain.

Each trust can opt in or out of any project; but once they join it, they will be expected to see it through. This could be important in procurement, where trusts normally order their own ambulances with slightly different specifications. A common specification could create greater buying power and improve security of supply.

London Ambulance Service CEO Daniel Elkeles said the trusts “want this to be a fantastic improvement body”, asking: “How do we use our resources and skills to make things better for patients?”

The trusts plan to invite ideas from staff at a conference next month on where the collaboration could focus, before making a more detailed plan for its first year. Mr Weldon said: “We have to be able to articulate a burning platform which staff find compelling.”

A Northern Ambulance Alliance already operates, including the North East, North West, Yorkshire, and East Midlands trusts, and HSJ understands West Midlands has just joined it. The new Southern group now plans to learn from their work.

Source: HSJ

Date: 29 May

Posted in News on May 29, 2024

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