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Efficiencies and cost savings are expected from latest blue light merger

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Two ambulance transport operations covering the south west of England are to merge to create another public sector ‘super fleet’.

The merger from February 1, 2013, of Great Western Ambulance Service (GWAS) with South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWAS) will create a combined fleet of 1,032 vehicles.

It is the latest merger in the public sector as bosses strive for financial savings and improved operating efficiencies against a background of tightening budgets.

The merger follows a decision last summer by GWAS to explore the possibility of partnering with another trust to ‘secure its long term future and to improve patient care’.

At the time GWAS chief executive Martin Flaherty said:  “We are absolutely committed to clinical excellence and have decided that the best way to deliver on this commitment is to become part of a larger organisation where the benefits of combined resources will give us more capacity to improve and innovate at the pace our patients deserve.”

Two months later GWAS announced that it would be working with SWAS to create a single ambulance trust in the south west.

GWAS chairman Peter Carr said: “This partnership will bring the benefits of combined resources and will provide more capacity to improve and innovate. We have found a potential partner that shares our values and our strategic agenda which will ensure that patients continue to receive excellent services in the future.”

One of the key benefits of the merger is forecasted to be improved value for money for taxpayers.

From a fleet perspective, that means savings generated by increased purchasing power alongside a reduction in overall maintenance costs.

Although neither trust was able to comment on the scale of the potential savings, a spokesman said: “Since the 2008/9 financial year, SWAS and GWAS, along with three other ambulance services, have been buying the same frontline ambulances based on the latest national specification, which has already seen considerable savings.

“The coming together of the two trusts will enhance that savings potential.”

The key fleet efficiencies from the merger are: a combined larger fleet for added operational resilience; joint procurement of vehicles, parts and maintenance; combined enlarged staffing, allowing for greater resilience within the teams and flexibility; and best practice from both trusts to be integrated into systems and processes.

The current fleet size is expected to be maintained as a result of the merger.

There are not expected to be any job cuts within the two services’ fleet departments with GWAS fleet manager Dave Holmes and his opposite number at SWAS, Kevin Bartholomew, remaining in post.

The spokesman said: “There are no plans currently to change any of the fleet structures below the head of logistics who is the fleet managers’ manager.”

It is also planned that the respective fleet departments, which are composed of headquarters and site/workshop-based staff will remain in situ in Gloucester and Exeter.

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