THE region’s ambulance service is to partner with another organisation to secure its future.

Great Western Ambulance Service (GWAS) announced on August 24 that it is exploring the possibility of a partnership with another ambulance service so it can continue to improve patient care.

The change comes after the Health and Social Care Bill 2011 decreed that all NHS Trusts, like GWAS, become NHS Foundation Trusts or part of an existing NHS Foundation Trust by April 2014.

GWAS has opted to join another existing NHS Foundation Trust rather than branch out by itself.

Becoming an NHS Foundation would have given the service more freedom, but achieving the status is very demanding with GWAS needing to demonstrate a history of strong financial and operational performance as well as a strong and stable board.

Although GWAS has improved significantly on both fronts, it needs to prove its track-record over a longer period and its interim chief executive Martin Flaherty will be leaving in September.

It is thought unlikely that GWAS will be able to appoint another chief executive, with East Midlands and Welsh ambulance services having both been unable to appoint permanent chief executives in recent months.

John Oliver, spokesman for GWAS, said: "The criteria for achieving Foundation Trust status are very demanding and the belief among board members is that it was not viable for GWAS to do it alone."

GWAS is the smallest of the 11 independent ambulance services in England and would have to show the same level of financial, clinical and operational governance as its larger counterparts.

"At GWAS 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 at the pace our patients deserve," said Mr Flaherty.

GWAS provides emergency care and patient transport services across Wiltshire, Gloucestershire and the former Avon.

It employs more than 1,680 staff across 33 operational sites and last year responded to more than 256,000 emergency calls.

Mr Flaherty added he hoped the process would be complete by October 2012.