A RARE alliance is being forged between the ambulance union and NHS trust, which both hope will end years of mistrust.

A written agreement is due to be signed between Unison (the ambulance service union) and the Beds and Herts Ambulance and Paramedic Trust, next week, following a groundbreaking meeting last Friday.

The agreement takes both management and workers into a new era, allowing closer partnership and greater collaboration over far-reaching plans currently being introduced by the trust.

Both parties have been at odds over the proposals, which will see ambulance crews from Bishop's Stortford being called to cover mobile priority standby points in areas as far afield as Letchworth.

Explaining the partnership deal, Dr Carney, the trust's chief executive, told the Citizen: "The agreement formalises a very close relationship between Unison and the trust.

"It's our intention to work closely with them in the future and change the more traditional informal relationship to a more collaborative one. We've got to change traditional methods of managing to encourage that."

He added: "Unison clearly represents a majority of staff so it is important we have ongoing liaison with it and recognition of its roles."

The agreement, which formally recognises union input as an integral part of the trust's policy-forming procedure, has been greeted with optimism by Unison regional officer John Toomey.

He said: "It's a very positive step forward and is indicative of a radically different approach of dealing with ambulance staff and our work.

"The history of the ambulance service has been one of militant approaches but I think Dr Carney has brought some fresh thinking to the trust ."

He added: "We recognise there are going to be occasions when we have marked differences but we want to ensure we're properly defining our respective messages."

Speaking of last Friday's meeting, he said: "For the first time ever Unison reps were involved with the trust's management meeting to discuss the way ahead.

"We were able to sit down and discuss some difficult issues and identify ways of solving them."

Mr Toomey said the ambulance service's main problem was lack of staff and resources and he said these needed to identified as a matter of priority.

He said funding shortfalls did not just lie at the door of the trust but the health authorities and government which needed to listen to their concerns.

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