Half of the ambulances covering Suffolk and north east Essex were off the road on a single day, an investigation by the EADT has found.  

Fifty per cent of the dual-staffed ambulances at the East of England Ambulance Service Trust were off the road on Monday October 23, according to an internal email seen by the East Anglian Daily Times. 

When we put this to the trust they said that they planned for 30% of the fleet being off the road at any one time and on Monday October 23 it was 31%. 

However, the email suggests otherwise stating that VOR (vehicle off road) was 50% that day. 

The internal email came to light after a Freedom of Information request made by the EADT revealed almost half of the region’s ambulances broke down in August; more than double the total recorded the previous month. 

Our investigation continues to raise concerns about the reliability of the 500 vehicles available. 

In August, our Freedom of Information request found that 212 breakdowns were recorded among the trust’s Fiat ambulances, which were introduced just four years ago as part of a £54million deal, and now make up 442 of the trust’s fleet.  

The remaining 27 breakdowns were among its Mercedes ambulances, 47 of which were in the fleet before the Fiats were introduced.  

This means 47.96% of the fleet’s Fiat ambulances and 57.45% of the Mercedes vehicles broke down during August.  

A previous Freedom of Information request made by the EADT revealed that in July there were 113 breakdowns recorded by the trust - 103 Fiat ambulances and 10 Mercedes vehicles. 

The spokesperson said: “We have nearly 500 ambulances with around 300 on the road at any given point during a day. 

“In Suffolk, 94% of the vehicles needed at the busiest time of the day were available last week. 

“Additional vehicles have been moved to Suffolk to ensure we have improved availability.” 

The spokesperson also revealed that a replacement programme was underway to replace ageing vehicles. 

The spokesperson said: “Our teams are working hard to keep our vehicles on the road and a specialist maintenance task group is continuing to make good progress with increasing vehicle availability. 

“This work has increased the number of vehicles we have available, with 26 more vehicles available each day in September compared to August and we have seen a further increase in availability so far in October. 

“We also have a replacement programme underway for a third of our fleet that is nearing the end of its planned operational life of five years and 89 new MAN and Ford vehicles are on order which will start arriving with us next month.”  

The move to bring in the newer Fiat Ducato ambulances, which were introduced to the region in 2019, proved controversial after nearly 100 ambulance workers suffered problems when driving the new vehicles due to height and body shape.  

In 2022, figures revealed that 94 members of staff had been unable to drive the new modified Fiat vans introduced by the trust at a cost of £54million. 

Taller members of staff reported suffering from back pains and scraping their knees and shins on dashboards while complaining of restricted vision out of the windscreen. 

Of the East of England fleet, the Fiat vehicles date from 2019 to 2021 and are therefore between two and four years old. The Mercedes vehicles are 2016 and 2018 models, from five to seven years old.