Three ambulance trusts have joined forces to form an alliance across the North of England.
But leaders of the North West, North East and Yorkshire services have denied the move is the first step towards eventual amalgamation.
Announcing the launch of the Northern Ambulance Alliance, the three trusts insisted they were teaming up purely to “improve efficiency.”
They said the arrangement meant they could “look at efficiency through joint procurement exercises, major changes to IT, assessing specialist expertise and learning from each other’s achievements.”
Talking about the new link-up, Derek Cartwright, chief executive of North West Ambulance Service, said: “The NAA will work within the existing structure of organisations and their legal frameworks.
“The boards of all three trusts will still have responsibility for their individual service, but will also consider the work and objectives of the NAA when making decisions.”
The three services said they were already seeing the benefits of collaborating more closley with police and fire and rescue “with tangible benefits to patient outcomes and staff safety.”
A statement issued by the new NAA said the move was not a merger, but “an attempt by all three organisations to work closer together to standardise care, identify savings through collaborative procurement and be better placed to tackle the fast moving change agenda.”
On the threat to jobs, the Northern Ambulance Alliance statement insisted: “There are no direct staff consequences. It may well mean in the future that the three organisations consider joint appointments or shared working for new roles and replacements.”
In terms of financial benefits, the Alliance said: “An example might be procurement of a single agreed vehicle specification for all three services, reducing costs and standardising on maintenance and equipment.
“This is something that has proved elusive at a national level.”