Jeremy Hunt, the secretary of state for health, has rubberstamped the merger of the ambulance trust which services East Devon with the south of England service.

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Now the South Western Ambulance Service Foundation Trust (SWASFT) will join forces with the Great Western Ambulance Service (GWAS) from next month.

Last week’s ministerial signature on the paperwork paves the way for a single service serving population of over 5.3 million people.

From February 1 the enlarged SWASFT will have a workforce of around 4,000, based at more than 120 sites, including 96 ambulance stations – including Exmouth’s Liverton Business Park - and six air bases.

Ken Wenman has been interim chief executive of GWAS for the past year and is the current CEO of SWAFT.

He said: “I have met many skilled and committed clinicians and managers within GWAS, mirroring the expertise I know we have in SWASFT.

“As a result, I am really looking forward to the great opportunity we have to take the best from each trust. This will further improve the quality of care offered to patients, as well as further strengthening the role of ambulance services within local health communities.”

GWAS chairman, Peter Carr, said: “Our decision was based on the best interests of patients, staff and taxpayers.

“That focus has remained throughout the rigorous process that has resulted in this welcome decision by the secretary of state.”

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