Fiat ambulance fleet rolls out in the eastern region

Bespoke ambulances which have been specially designed to give patients a smoother journey while improving the care East of England Service NHS Trust (EEAST) crews are able to provide have started to hit the roads.

A total of 12 vehicles are going into service in 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.

In a first for English trusts, EEAST is installing automatic self-loading stretchers as standard so staff no longer need to push patients up a ramp or onto a tail lift into the vehicle, reducing the chances of musculoskeletal problems while also improving the patient experience. The trust is also the first to begin using powered carry chairs so that staff do not have to lift patients when going up or downstairs.

In addition, the new vehicles include a camera and intercom system so the clinician in the cab can communicate with their colleague looking after the patient in the back. The internal layout will also make equipment easy to access in any clinical situation, while electronic checklists will be used to monitor stock and ensure each ambulance carries the correct supplies, saving crews from verifying items manually.

The vehicles are also significantly lighter than EEAST’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.

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.