From next summer non emergency patient transport across Cheshire will switch from the North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) to the ambulance service covering the West Midlands.

The near £25m five year contract was awarded by the NHS Blackpool clinical commissioning group which is responsible for commissioning ambulance services in the north west.

The group said the West Midlands Ambulance Service (WMAS) had been successful with its bid to provide non-emergency patient transport services in Cheshire, Warrington and Wirral.

The NWAS will provide services in Cumbria, Lancashire, Greater Manchester and Merseyside, but not Cheshire.

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NWAS chief executive Bob Williams said: “We are extremely disappointed that the North West Ambulance Service has not been awarded the contract for patient transport services in Cheshire.

“Whilst we were successful in the North West’s remaining counties, demonstrating that there is confidence in the service we provide, our immediate focus now is on our staff in Cheshire and the impact on them.

“We will continue to ensure that we deliver a high level of service to patients until the new provider takes over.

“We will work closely with our trade unions, staff and the new provider to support them through this period and deliver a safe and smooth transition.”

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WMAS serves a population of 5.6 million people from Shropshire and Staffordshire through the Midlands to Herefordshire and Worcestershire,

It has previously handled transfers into Cheshire.

The new contract will begin in July and include improvements such as a text ahead service which informs patients when their transport will arrive.

It is said to have followed a rigorous competitive tendering process and evaluation of potential providers.

WMAS will now work to ensure a smooth transition takes place.

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Its commercial services director Mark Gough said: “We are delighted to have won this contract.

“We have a very strong team with vast experience in running patient transport service (PTS) operations. Currently we complete around 700,000 PTS journeys per year.”

Mr Gough said WMAS would be implementing a tried and tested approach and added: “We are particularly pleased that we have been able to keep this important contract within the NHS family and will be working with staff to ensure that we have a very strong presence in Cheshire.

“We know that this will be an unsettling time for staff so will be doing everything we can to ensure that we work as closely as possible with them to reassure them that jobs are safe and that we want to work with them to take the service to the next level.”

The new contract incorporates a number of quality improvements following engagement with hospitals, patients and commissioners.

These include, in addition to the text ahead service to inform patients when their transport will arrive, streamlined quality standards particularly around the journey arrival and collection times and a revised process for applying the eligibility criteria to ensure equitable access to the service.