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Trust loses national emergency contract after 13 years

Published on: 31 Jan 2024

A key part of the NHS’s national emergency response system has been handed to a new trust to run for the next five years.

The National Ambulance Resilience Unit has been hosted by West Midlands Ambulance Service University Foundation Trust for the last 13 years but it has now lost the contract to London Ambulance Service Trust.

NARU provides training and support to ambulance services in dealing with hazardous and challenging incidents – including training of hazardous area response teams, whose numbers are likely to increase after recommendations made by the Manchester Arena bombing inquiry.  

NHS England went out to tender late last year  for the NARU contract amid concerns about its future. 

LAS CEO Daniel Elkeles, LAS chief executive, said he was “proud” to take on the contract.

“Staff from ambulance services across the country are united in our commitment to providing care for people when it matters most, including life-saving help in the nation’s darkest moments – from terror attacks to significant incidents, such as a building collapse or large fires,” he said. “t takes a profound level of training, skill and planning to do this well, which is at the heart of what this service is all about.”

“We will build on the great work that the current host WMAS and the NARU team have done over the last decade. We commit to working seamlessly together to meet the known and emerging needs of the NHS as we deal with complex and major incidents, and helping to keep the people of this country safe and well cared for – no matter the circumstance.”

Stephen Groves, NHSE national director of Emergency Preparedness Resilience and Response, thanked WMAS for its “outstanding contribution”.

He said: “We look forward to working with LAS to further enhance the service, including widening the scope beyond ambulance services so that even more NHS clinical staff will have access to the best training and equipment to help save as many lives as possible during high-risk, complex and major incidents.”

Keith Prior, WMAS and current director of NARU, said: “We are obviously disappointed to lose the contract after delivering a very high-quality service for the last 13 years.

“NARU staff have helped develop and train the hundreds of specialist paramedics who make up the HART teams across our country as they respond to incidents in some of the most difficult situations, be that at height, in water, fires, collapsed buildings or while dealing with chemical or biological releases.

“They have also played a key role in the nation’s response to international outbreaks of diseases such as covid-19 and ebola and supported the Manchester Area Inquiry as well as working with partners to introduce new ways of working to deal with terrorist incidents. Our focus now is on supporting the staff as the transfer takes place to London Ambulance Service.”

A procurement of communications technology through NARU is at the centre of a court case where a company claims it lost out because of “bias”. Excelerate Technology is seeking £5.5m in losses. NHSE would not comment on whether any liability for the case would transfer to LAS.