A new fleet of Fiat Ducato-based ambulances have gone into service with the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust (EEAST).
A total of 12 vehicles have already gone into service in Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and Waveney, with a further 43 set to be rolled out across the eastern region in the coming months, and another 171 by next April.
EEAST has invested around £21m in the 226 vehicles, which have been developed following extensive consultation with staff, patients, carers’ groups and trade unions.
The ambulances have been designed to make transfers smoother and more comfortable for patients, who will be positioned in the centre of the vehicle rather to one side, in turn allowing family members to sit with them or specialist medics to work around them.
The trust is also installing automatic self-loading stretchers as standard so staff no longer need to push patients up a ramp or onto a tail lift to access the vehicle, reducing the chances of musculoskeletal problems while also improving the patient experience.
The vehicles are significantly lighter than the Trust’s existing fleet, making them more efficient and environmentally-friendly as CO2 emissions, fuel costs and maintenance will be reduced. This will save an estimated £3.3m every year when all of the vehicles have been replaced.
Paul Henry, deputy director of operations support, said: “We are delighted that these fantastic new vehicles are now being rolled out. We listened carefully to the views of our staff to ensure the vehicle will meet their needs, keep them comfortable during a shift and allow them to deliver even better care.
“We’ve also liaised closely with patients, carers and other stakeholders to ensure the design gives them the best possible experience by making their journey as smooth as possible.”
The final design for the ambulance was chosen after staff were given the chance to test four prototype vehicles in a real working environment before feeding back their views.
Richard Chamberlain, country manager for Fiat Professional said: “The fact that EEAST has chosen the Ducato as its base vehicle for its new fleet of ambulances shows their faith in Fiat Professional’s durability, reliability and the flexible range of conversion options available.
“As more and more trusts put faith in its ability to serve on the front line, the Fiat Professional Ductao is quickly becoming one of Britain’s most popular bases for Ambulance conversions.”