On 1 April 2019, NHS Improvement introduced new national ambulance vehicle specifications and all new ambulances purchased need to be in line with these.
More information on the specifications can be found here.
UNISON recognises that there is too much variation between ambulance vehicles in the English ambulance services and a more joined up approach would be beneficial to the NHS.
However, we are concerned that as part of the new vehicle specifications, NHS improvement will be mandating that new ambulances purchased from 1 April 2019 need to be van conversions.
NHS Improvement has stated the vehicle specifications are meant to be high level in order to allow trusts to continue to make detailed design decisions at a local level. However, this same degree of flexibility will not be afforded to decisions relating to the types of ambulance vehicles Trusts can choose.
NHS improvement did state in their consultation response that derogation from the national specifications is possible but only under limited circumstances.
The financial reasons for choosing a van conversion over a box conversion ambulance have been well documented by NHS Improvement. UNISON believes that similar weight should be placed on the working environment this provides for staff and which ambulance is the best clinical space for patients. Ambulance trusts shouldn’t be restricted to a particular conversion type especially if there are other cost efficient options that better meet the needs of patients and staff.
UNISON was initially disappointed that there was no trade union involvement in formulating the vehicle specifications and that engagement only started to take place when they were being consulted on before Christmas.
NHS Improvement has subsequently given a commitment that there will be trade union involvement in the national group that will influence the future vehicle specifications.
UNISON will be playing a key role in this group and will make the case for a vehicle design that provides the best and safest working environment for UNISON members in the ambulance service.