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Hope soars for helicopter bid
Great Western Ambulance Service has given the clearest signal yet that it will sign up for five years to continue with the joint Wiltshire Police helicopter and Air Ambulance.
GWAS had previously said it was seeking a one or two year contract while it carries out a review of air ambulance cover in Wiltshire, Gloucestershire and Avon.
This had led to uncertainty about the future of the Air Ambulance as Wiltshire Police was seeking a five year partnership when the existing contract expires in December.
This week GWAS appointed Philip Selwood, a former ambulance service director and ex police officer, as interim chairman of the Wiltshire Air Ambulance Appeal sub-committee and he has been given a remit to negotiate for a contract up to five years.
In his role, which is unpaid, Mr Selwood will lead discussions with Wiltshire Police on behalf of GWAS for the new contract for the use of the police helicopter.
However the situation may not be clear cut as Wiltshire Police is believed to have been discussing the possibility of creating a regional police helicopter.
Tony FitzSimons, chairman of GWAS, said that Mr Selwood’s appointment was good news for the Wiltshire Air Ambulance Appeal.
“Uniquely, Philip has extensive experience of both the police and ambulance services and will bring a fresh and independent perspective to the role,” he said.
“Philip will be leading discussions with Wiltshire Police as the trustees negotiate the new contract for the use of the police helicopter. We are committed to an extension of the lease to support police and operational needs, which could be up to five years.”
Mr Selwood said he had been assured by GWAS that he was at liberty to negotiate a new contract for another five years.
“The people of Wiltshire have a strong commitment to the Wiltshire Air Ambulance Appeal and we need to recognise that and work to continue to deliver the best possible patient care,” he said.
Mr Selwood will also work towards moving the Wiltshire Air Ambulance Appeal to a stand alone charity, something air ambulance campaigners have long wanted. Currently the board of GWAS is the sole trustee of the Wiltshire Air Ambulance Appeal.
Mr Selwood, who lives near Malmesbury, was chief executive of Wiltshire and Gloucestershire ambulance services for 18 months in the run up to the formation of GWAS. For seven years previously he was a director at London Ambulance Service and before that was an officer with the Metropolitan Police for 32 years.
A spokesman for Wiltshire Police said that Mr Selwood’s experiences in both the police and ambulance services should be of great benefit in the negotiations.
“Discussions are continuing in respect of the police and air ambulance provision in Wiltshire and Swindon ahead of the expiration of the current contract in December and no final decisions have yet been reached,” he said.