Headlines: July 5th, 2004

Ambulance drivers will no longer face the possibility of speeding fines when answering emergency calls in a move designed to cut bureaucracy which has seen some health trusts having to employ staff to deal exclusively with the paperwork needed to prove that ambulances are responding to 999 calls.The announcement, made by the Health Minister Rosie Winterton, has been welcomed by UNISON, which represents ambulance drivers. The Ambulance Service Association had estimated that the cost of trusts dealing with speeding tickets had reached a million pounds a year. The minister said the government had listened to ambulance staff and the ASA. The Association of Chief Police Officers is sending a letter to all police forces setting out a new protocol for dealing with speeding tickets issued by safety cameras to ambulances and other emergency services. It states that a fixed penalty notice can only be sent out to the offending trust if the photograph shows that blue lights were not flashing.

Richard Diment, Chief Executive of the Ambulance Service Association, welcomed the new protocol which, he said, would save the NHS a lot more time and money and free up ambulance trust resources. UNISON said the decision was a victory for common sense and would be a huge relief to ambulance drivers. It would also cut down on “mountains of paperwork”.