The Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust is to receive £55m from the Welsh Assembly government to invest in the O2 Airwave communication system and upgrade their control rooms.

O2 Airwave is a secure digital radio network dedicated for the exclusive use of the UK’s emergency and public safety services. Designed to carry voice and data communications, the service offers guaranteed levels of coverage across England, Wales and Scotland.

The 10-year deal between the Ambulance Trust and O2 Airwave will see the ambulance control rooms upgraded with the latest technology and new radio systems installed in all 827 vehicles, including 454 ambulances as well as the three air ambulances.

Health minister, Dr Brian Gibbons, said: “This investment will help transform and modernise the ambulance service. The new communications system will provide far greater radio coverage across Wales, compared with about 65% at the moment. The new system will be more reliable and provide a safer working environment for NHS staff by ensuring that radio contact can be maintained at all times.”

The Airwave system currently has over 200,000 users in the UK and it was used by the Metropolitan Police to organise police locations following the 7 July terrorist attacks.

As reported on EHI in September the Home Office has also revealed plans to install O2 Airwaves systems to all English ambulances to avoid communication problems, such as incidents underground.

Gibbons added: “The Ambulance trust is working through a comprehensive modernisation plan and this extra funding demonstrates the Assembly Government’s commitment to helping it improve its performance and response times and meet all our expectations. It will also provide further opportunities for the ambulance trust to work closer with the other emergency services.”

The funding was welcomed by the trust, who were given £16m in October to purchase 119 new emergency ambulances and 67 other patient transport vehicles.

Chief executive of the trust, Alan Murray, said: “The system, already in use with other emergency services and public bodies will provide robust and reliable radio communications to paramedics and ambulance staff across Wales.

“It will replace all existing communication equipment in ambulance control centres and stations and will provide staff with immediate and dependable communications with other emergency services whether attending local incidents, or wider national events.”


The Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust

O2 Airwave

Welsh Assembly