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New ambulance specification introduced to improve staff safety and cut costs


By Valeria Fiore
Reporter
2 April 2019

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NHS ambulance trusts in England will need to comply with a new ambulance vehicle specification from this month, NHS Improvement has announced.

In a consultation response published last Thursday (28 March), NHS Improvement said that from 1 April all newly purchased double-crewed ambulances will need to meet the specification.

Ambulance trusts will now need to ensure their new ambulance fleet meets the technology and safety requirements set out in the specification.

These include a number of features ‘not currently commonplace’, such as black box technology – a device installed in a vehicle that monitors driver activities – ‘CCTV, 4G/Wi-Fi functionality, and temperature-controlled drug storage’.

The response document said: ‘In terms of staff safety and security, the improved internal and external CCTV requirement, the voice communication system and the recording capability were positively received.’

According to the NHS Staff Survey 2018, 33% of ambulance trust staff experienced physical violence from patients in the 12 months leading to the survey. The hope is that equipping ambulances with this new technology will go some way towards alleviating this situation.

Mandated through NHS England’s 2019/20 Standard Contract, the specification is expected to help the health service save money, according to NHS Improvement.

A review of the 10 NHS ambulance trusts in England, carried out by Lord Carter and published last year, found that the NHS could save £200m by 2020/21 just by making improvements to staff productivity and the ambulance service infrastructure.

Lord Carter also recommended the adoption of a standard specification for ambulance trusts, detailing what ambulances should carry on board.

Following these recommendations, NHS Improvement launched a six-week consultation in December 2018, which gathered 390 responses. The organisation released its first standard ambulance vehicle specification yesterday.

The consultation response said that the specification is not ‘finite’ and that a national group of experts, known as the Ambulance Innovation Hub, will be set up to ‘encourage, oversee and manage collaborative innovation on a national scale’.

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