The ambulance service for Kent, Surrey and Sussex is a step nearer to becoming one of the first NHS ambulance trusts to be granted foundation status.
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley has approved the application by South East Coast Ambulance Service (SECamb) to become a foundation trust (FT).
The bid now goes to a final assessment by regulator Monitor. The service could have its new status by spring 2011.
Residents, patients and staff will be able to become members of the trust.
The aim is to give members a chance to help develop 999 emergency healthcare in the future. They can also be elected to a council of governors to represent the interests of users.
"We are delighted to have been put forward by the secretary of state to become a foundation trust," said chief executive Paul Sutton.
"Becoming an FT will provide an excellent platform from which we can progress our vision to be a world-leader in pre-hospital emergency care.
"It will also provide an opportunity to respond better to the needs of our local population as they will have direct involvement in what we do."
Out of 809 responses received in a public consultation carried out between 25 July and 16 October 2009, 90% were in favour of the foundation trust.
SECamb was formed on 1 July 2006 following the merger of Kent, Surrey and Sussex ambulance trusts.
"One of the great things about becoming an FT is the role local communities have in the organisation," said Mr Sutton.
"I would like (people) who are interested in what we do to become a SECAmb foundation trust member."