A major order for Fiat Ducato-based ambulances has been placed by the East of England Ambulance Services NHS Trust (EEAST).
It has taken delivery of an initial 12 vehicles, with 43 more to follow in 2019, and a further 171 due for delivery in 2020.
EEAST has invested around £21m in the 226 vehicles, which are said to 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 than 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 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.
The vehicles are significantly lighter than the trust’s existing fleet, which it is said will make them more efficient and environmentally-friendly as CO2 emissions, fuel costs and maintenance will be reduced, saving an estimated £3.3million when all of the vehicles have been replaced.
EEAST deputy director of operations support Paul Henry 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.”