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Ambulance Services

Volume 461: debated on Wednesday 6 June 2007

6. What recent discussions he has had with Welsh Assembly Ministers on the interaction between the ambulance service in Wales and neighbouring services in England. (140339)

9. What recent discussions he has had with Welsh Assembly Ministers on cross-border issues affecting the ambulance service in Wales. (140342)

I have regular meetings with the Assembly Minister for Health and Social Services on a range of issues, including the provision of ambulance services.

I thank the Minister for that answer. Ambulance services are a particular challenge in Gloucestershire, especially in Forest of Dean, given the nature of its geography. In some cases, it would make sense for the Welsh ambulance service to deal with patients in the southern part of my constituency. Will the Minister use whatever good offices he has to encourage Welsh Assembly Ministers to urge the Welsh ambulance service to work seamlessly with its colleagues in Gloucestershire, because we do not want the Welsh border to become a barrier to effective health care? [Interruption.]

Order. The House should come to order; it is unfair to those who are here for Welsh business.

The hon. Member for Forest of Dean (Mr. Harper) makes a very good point. I understand that the Great Western ambulance service, which covers his constituency, has joint working arrangements with the Welsh ambulance service to deal with specific sites such as bridges and tunnels. Those working arrangements are regularly reviewed. I understand that there are closer working arrangements and co-operation elsewhere on the border. I will shortly be meeting Edwina Hart, the Assembly Minister with responsibility for health, and I will take up the point that the hon. Gentleman makes.

Whatever the Minister says, the present arrangements do not seem to be working terribly well, with response times deteriorating from the present eight minutes. Is that the fault of the Minister, or the Welsh Assembly?

In fact, response times have improved dramatically in the Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust. It was formed in 1998, and for the past two months, it has exceeded its target of responding to 60 per cent. of life-threatening emergencies inside eight minutes. That is a result of substantial investment in staff and, especially, equipment. The service is meeting its targets and continues to improve. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would appreciate some assistance from the Welsh ambulance trust.