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More than £42m to be spent on new buildings and vehicles for region’s ambulance trust

PUBLISHED: 17:51 29 March 2017 | UPDATED: 08:39 30 March 2017

Ambulance services were called to the scene at Bevan Street West, Lowestoft. Picture: Archant Library.

Ambulance services were called to the scene at Bevan Street West, Lowestoft. Picture: Archant Library.

More than £42m will be spent on new buildings and vehicles for the region’s ambulance service, after bosses voted to press ahead with two new schemes.

AMBULANCE_STOCK_02 AMBULANCE_STOCK_02

The decision was taken at the East of England Ambulance Service Trust (EEAST) board meeting this afternoon in Cambridgeshire.

Under the first scheme - the Estate Transformation Plan - 18 ‘hub and spoke’ clusters would be created across the whole area served by EEAST - Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire, and Essex.

The hubs, located close to emergency departments, would have staff facilities, management and vehicle workshop facilities.

At the start of a shift, staff would report to their assigned hub, before emergency vehicles are then allocated to a spoke, a community ambulance station.

Photo: Angela Sharpe. Photo: Angela Sharpe.

Then, as vehicles at the spokes are dispatched to incidents, they will be replaced from the hub.

This would replace the current system where the service has one headquarters, three emergency operations centre and then a mix of ambulance stations, response posts and depots.

Among this there are also locality offices left over from before the trust was formed, training centres, driver training school, fleet centres, a workshop and supplies centres.

It is hoped some £11m could be clawed back through disposing of old buildings, bringing the net cost to £31m.

East of England Ambulance Service.

 Picture: James Bass East of England Ambulance Service. Picture: James Bass

A EEAST spokesman said: This is not a closure programme and any suggestion to the contrary is incorrect.

“This is about making the most of our estate and working with partners to share more facilities and buildings to help increase our presence in the local community especially in rural areas.

“Currently EEAST spends the most percentage of its non-pay spend on our estate out of any ambulance service in England.

“This means that we are spending more on our estate than we could be and we could deliver a better service to our staff from implementing a modern estate with make ready facilities.

Ambulances parked up outside A&E at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. Picture: Denise Bradley Ambulances parked up outside A&E at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. Picture: Denise Bradley

“The existing estate does not support the requirements of a modern ambulance service or any possible changes as a result of the ambulance response programme. This will improve staff access to line managers and enable EEAST to develop better health and wellbeing facilities which we can’t do on our existing estate.”

In terms of vehicles, the trust currently has ambulances, rapid response vehicles (RRV), and additional 4x4s.

It also uses a mix of patient transport service (PTS) vehicles, trucks and vans for support services and a lease car scheme.

But under new plans, lighter ambulances would have improved fuel economy and lower emissions.

A single type of standardised RRV would be used, as well as a standardised PTS vehicles.

In terms of maintenance, servicing would be possible at workshops at each of the new hubs - as opposed to now where there is a mix of in house and out sourced servicing.

Major repairs would be carried out as a new fleet logistics centre, at one of the hubs.

But documents seen by the Board said it was key all new vehicles were interoperable - that is they allow a range of tasks to be undertaken on one vehicle - and that they are sustainable.

It is thought more than £3,755,000 could be saved annually on things such as fuel, leasing, servicing, and logistics.

The first batch of replacement ambulances would be introduced from April 2019.

In both plans, it was recognised one could not go ahead without the other.

The spokesman added the fleet plan was “an area that was recently raised by the National Audit Office report and regulators, looking at how EEAST can improve the efficiency of its fleet. As part of this work, the Trust will be trialling two new ambulance designs.

“These have been developed with staff as part of our vehicle working group and the ambulances will be tested with some staff on ambulance stations across the region so that we can gather staff feedback.

“These new ambulances will allow us to embed more technology to support staff delivering patient care and could save the Trust money which can support an increase in patient facing staff. The review is also looking at whether EEAST should bring in various fleet maintenance services in-house and reduce the reliance on external suppliers; again potentially good news for staff.”

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