800 new ambulances in England, but capacity remains a critical issue

In a new delivery plan published by the Department of Health and Social Care and NHS England, ambulance services capacity comes under scrutiny with ambulance bosses being asked to provide capacity plans for 2023/4 and identify gaps before 800 new ambulances are added to the fleet.

According to the two-year plan for recovering urgent and emergency care services, on average more than 4,000 hours a day were lost this winter due to handover delays. Ambulance crews are waiting to hand over patients to hospital staff because emergency departments are full.  

Handover delays are not the only cause of slower ambulance response times as the plan identifies increased levels of sickness and other staff absence as well as the growing complexity of crew’s work meaning each incident is taking longer.

The plan sets out how it will deliver additional capacity, “Largely delivered through more crew hours on the road, but we will also release capacity through better health and wellbeing for staff meaning a reduction in sickness absence, productivity gains, and through better links between the ambulance service and community services.”

800 ambulances are expected to be available during 2023/4 and this includes 100 new specialist mental health response vehicles, the funding for which was announced as part of a £150 million funding package earlier in January.

The plan embraces all elements of urgent and emergency care and is led by NHS England National Director of Emergency Care and Deputy Chief Operating Officer, Sarah-Jane Marsh.

Integrated Care Boards will be accountable for improving ambulance performance at a local level, through the services that they commission, recognising their links to all parts of the system that have an impact on urgent and emergency care.

To support the plan, the Government has committed to additional targeted funding of £1 billion to create capacity in urgent and emergency services, this builds on £500 million announced by Ministers earlier this winter.


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