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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 June 2006, 11:53 GMT 12:53 UK
Auditor to head ambulance inquiry
ambulance (generic)
The service needs to make cuts to balance the books
An inquiry into the running of the Welsh Ambulance Service is likely to be led by Wales' auditor general, Jeremy Colman.

The assembly's health committee agreed to recommend Mr Colman after discussing the terms of the inquiry on Wednesday.

Last week the assembly voted for a public inquiry into the state of the Welsh Ambulance Service, which a former head described as being in "crisis".

On Tuesday, its current chief warned that cuts would put lives at risk.

The Welsh Ambulance Service trust began the financial year with plans to claw back millions of pounds.

But in May, the trust's former interim chief executive Roger Thayne resigned, claiming 500 people were dying unnecessarily each year through under-funding and he was "ashamed" of the service.

What isn't acceptable to the public of Wales or to our staff or to us is that lives would be put at risk
Dr Anton van Dellen

He had written a report claiming that 35m investments was needed in the service. He said that he was asked to make 10m cuts instead.

Following a special meeting of the trust's board in St Asaph on Tuesday, Mr Thayne's successor, Dr Anton van Dellen, said cutting staff to save money would create an unacceptable public risk.

He said the trust had a deficit of between 5-6m, and needed to make cutbacks.

But, he insisted it would not be done through staff cuts.

He said: "It's very difficult to quantify the figure exactly - I think we are going to be looking at a deficit in the region of three, four, five million pounds and that was the money we were hoping to save by cutting our overtime.

"What has become apparent was that it was an unrealistic savings plan and that we will be running at a deficit this year."

Jeremy Colman, auditor general
The inquiry is likely to be led by Jeremy Colman

Dr van Dellen added: "I think the public not only want to see a modernised service in three to five years but they want to see some real changes made immediately that will result in an improvement in performance.

"What isn't acceptable to the public of Wales or to our staff or to us is that lives would be put at risk."

After AMs voted to hold a public inquiry last week, its health committee met to discuss the terms of the inquiry on Wednesday.

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