Last month, LAS UNISON Branch Health & Safety Officer Paul Stewart and Branch Communications Officer Rob Sydney travelled up to Birmingham to visit the Emergency Services Show.
On display at this year’s show were over 300 manufacturers and suppliers with a wide range of vehicles and equipment for all emergency services.
However, there was one particular vehicle we were keen to see. The new National Ambulance Specification vehicle.
Despite objections raised by UNISON, the current specification is for a van conversion. https://lasunison.com/unison-response-to-the-introduction-of-national-ambulance-vehicle-specification-for-english-nhs-ambulance-trusts
This has now been mandated by NHSI, and therefore any orders placed after April 2019 will only be the national Vehicle spec vehicle; a van conversion.
Although there were a couple of versions at the show, they were very disappointing, in many aspects, no more than the increased risk to staff of MSK injuries, from a loading of patient perspective.
There was on show, one specific system of interest with regards to a sliding locked trolley system from the middle of the vehicle into the side of the vehicle. They are in the development process with regards to self-loading trolleys, but the one on show was a ramp vehicle.
There were two manufacturers with a national ambulance specification vehicle on display including Wilker who are building our current LAS specification Ambulances.
Wilker have agreed to build the LAS a demo van conversion vehicle to LAS specification. There are at present, meetings being lined up to look at this.
It was good to actually step inside one of these vehicles as all we knew previously was what we had read about and imagined they may be like based on experience inside other ambulance vehicles.
The vehicles had been built well and both manufacturers have gone for a similar design inside the vehicle, but sadly they were much as we had imagined they would be like and due to being a van conversion they are just not suitable for use as an emergency ambulance in London.
They no longer have a walkthrough from the saloon to the cab. At a time when the LAS are reporting that there have been 346 physical attacks against ambulance crews in London averaging around 10 per week ‘https://www.londonambulance.nhs.uk/2019/09/20/emergency-services-thanked-as-new-statistics-reveal-extent-of-abuse/ ‘ this can be a vital escape route.
In fact only the next day while on duty, Rob was witness to a crew who were attacked by a patient and they used the walkthrough to escape.
As well as this, due to being a smaller vehicle, there is an obvious lack of storage space for PPE and a general lack of space within the vehicle.
Should you be called to a job with HEMS and/or other agencies you would not have enough room inside the vehicle for all the personnel and equipment. Bringing in to question the operability of the vehicles along with the increased risk to staff from a safety and wellbeing point of view.
We will continue to work with the service and the manufacturers.
It seems from the exhibitors at the show, that everyone is jumping on the bandwagon, now they are going to van conversions, as these are easier to convert than the chassis boxes to build. We will have to work closely with management to ensure any future vehicles are suitable for our needs in the London Ambulance Service.