Lord Carter’s 2018 review into operational productivity and performance in English NHS ambulance trusts found significant unwarranted variation in the national ambulance fleet and a lack of innovation at scale. This work was based on analysis of trust data, review of international ambulance fleets and engagement with frontline services.
A key recommendation in the report is that ‘NHS Improvement should work with trusts' boards and the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives to agree proposals to rapidly move to a standard specification for new fleet across England and deliver significant improvements in the way fleet is managed’.
In 2018, we worked with our fleet managers and ambulance staff to develop the NHS’s first standard ambulance vehicle specification. Starting in mid-December 2018, we ran a six-week consultation to hear from staff, stakeholders, suppliers, the unions and the public to ensure the standard spec would improve the quality and efficiency of our fleet, and would help drive innovation, including the ability to reduce emissions – a priority identified in the NHS Long Term Plan.
After 390 respondents shared their feedback on the standard vehicle’s safety, efficacy and quality for staff and patients, as well as their feedback on opportunities to deliver efficiency, innovation and environmental sustainability, we now have the NHS’s first standard ambulance vehicle specification to drive benefits for staff, patients and the environment, now and in the future.
2019-20 National ambulance vehicle specification for English NHS ambulance trusts
From 1 April 2019, all purchases of new ambulances will need to be against this standard specification – as set out in NHS England’s 2019-20 Standard Contract. By purchasing new vehicles against the standard specification, we expect significant savings to the NHS which could be reinvested in wider service delivery.
The specification includes several development features not currently commonplace in specifications, which will improve safety and increase efficiency. These include black box technology, CCTV, 4G/Wi-Fi functionality, temperature-controlled drug storage and increased vehicle safety features.
Our ambition is to continuously improve and refine the standard specification to enable innovation and improvements which are better for patients, staff and the environment. We will continue to engage with staff, trade unions, patient groups and other relevant experts to ensure our NHS vehicle is safe, effective, environmentally sustainable and fit for the future.
To support innovation, we will be setting up an Ambulance Innovation Hub, a national group of experts to encourage, oversee and manage collaborative innovation on a national scale.