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Improved ambulances hit the roads

The East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust (EEAST) has invested in 440 new ambulances, specially designed to make transfers more comfortable for patients.
214 bespoke vehicles took to the roads in the 2019/20 financial year, with 226 more this year (Photo: Charlotte Moore)

Nearly £50m has been invested in the 440 new EEAST ambulances, which have been specially designed to make transfers more comfortable for patients while improving safety for crews and the care which they are able to provide.

The fleet replacement programme began in 2019/20 when 214 bespoke vehicles took to the roads. A further 226 are being replaced this financial year, and will be responding to patients by April. The final 50 ambulances in EEAST’s existing fleet will be replaced from 2021/22.

In addition, the Trust is also delivering 32 specially-designed Volkswagen vans in the coming weeks for its ambulance officers, which have more space than the vehicles they are replacing. As well as allowing staff to carry a wider range of life-saving equipment, the vans also have a bespoke incident command area to improve the response they are able to provide.

Finally, 19 new vehicles specially designed to cater for patients who have suffered falls or mental health issues have also been leased and delivered, along with 36 replacement vehicles for its non-emergency patient transport service.

All of the vehicles have been developed following consultation with staff, trade unions and – where appropriate – patients and carers, so that EEAST can ensure they will meet the needs of the people using them.

Chris Wiltshire, head of fleet with EEAST, said: "We are delighted that our ambulance replacement programme is nearing completion with the roll out of these fantastic new vehicles.

"The ambulances have been designed to make transfers smoother and more comfortable for patients, and to create a safer working environment for crews as they provide the care to patients. The vehicles are also significantly lighter than our existing fleet, making them more efficient and environmentally-friendly as CO2 emissions, fuel costs and maintenance will be reduced. This will save more than £3m annually when all of the vehicles have been replaced later this year.

"The new specialist vehicles for our ambulance officers have much more space, in turn allowing them to carry more life-saving equipment and manage incidents on scene more effectively.

"At the same time, another mental health response car has now gone live in Cambridgeshire, to supplement a joint mental health response scheme in Bedfordshire. These initiatives are ensuring that patients with mental health issues can receive the support they need in the community wherever possible, in turn improving their experience of receiving care.

"We are looking forward to rolling out this model more widely across our patch over the coming months as more of our specialist vehicles start to hit the roads."

In addition, 38 additional Stryker stretchers with specialist bracketry for life support equipment have been issued to hospitals across the eastern region to help EEAST transfer patients effectively between critical care units.