The region's ambulance service recorded more than 200 more breakdowns than its West Midlands counterpart in one month alone last year, new data has revealed.

Between August 1 and August 31, 2023, 239 breakdowns were recorded by the East of England Ambulance Service Trust (EEAST), which at the time had a fleet of 489 dual-staffed ambulances.

A Freedom of Information request revealed that of these, 212 breakdowns were recorded amongst Fiat model ambulances which were introduced just four years ago as part of a £54million deal, and made up 442 of the trust's vehicles. 

New data, revealed again through a Freedom of Information request carried out by this paper, has shown West Midlands Ambulance Service (WMAS) recorded just 34 breakdowns in August 2023, some 205 less than that recorded at EEAST. 

And in July 2023, EEAST recorded 113 breakdowns, while WMAS recorded just 23. 

Across the whole year of 2023, WMAS recorded a grand total of 328 breakdowns, all amongst Fiat model ambulances, while EEAST recorded 352 in the months of July and August alone. 

The news comes after it was revealed that 15 hire cars were brought in at the East of England Ambulance Service Trust to increase the capacity of its fleet at busy times.

An EEAST spokesperson said each NHS trust has individual thresholds for taking vehicles off the roads and measure vehicle off-road rates differently. 

The spokesperson said: "We have more than 500 ambulances in our fleet with over 300 in use at our busiest time.

"We have a dedicated team in place to tackle the number of ambulances we have off road, and have already taken significant actions, including stockpiling parts and recruiting mobile mechanics to speed up repairs.

"These changes, alongside our fleet replacement scheme, will ensure more vehicles are on the road to respond to 999 calls."

East Anglian Daily Times: EEAST recorded 239 breakdowns in August 2023, while WMAS recorded 34EEAST recorded 239 breakdowns in August 2023, while WMAS recorded 34 (Image: Simon Finlay, Newsquest)

The WMAS fleet is made up of 454 emergency ambulances, 439 of which are Fiat Ducatos and 15 of which are four-wheel drive Mercedes sprinters. 

A WMAS spokesperson said there are some differences between their Fiat Ducatos and the ones used by EEAST, including WMAS using 'van conversion' vehicles and EEAST using 'box body' vehicles.

A West Midlands Ambulance Service spokesman said: "We have been operating Fiat ambulances for almost 15 years. During that period, we have continually developed the internal design with significant input from our frontline crews and fleet technical teams.

"Each of our ambulance hubs has a dedicated fleet team on hand to undertake routine servicing and maintenance right up to complex engine rebuilds, should they be required. 

"In addition, we receive excellent support from the network of Fiat dealerships."

The move to bring in the newer Fiat Ducato ambulances to EEAST, which were introduced to the region in 2019, was a controversial one as almost 100 ambulance workers suffered problems when driving the new fleet due to height and body shape. 

In 2022, figures revealed that following the introduction of the £54m converted Fiat vans by the East of England Ambulance Service Trust, 94 members of staff were identified as being unable to drive them. 

The issues with the Fiat vehicles affected taller members of staff, with crammed-in drivers suffering from back pains, restricted vision out of the windscreen and scraped knees and shins on dashboards.

It was recently revealed that 50% 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 this was put to the trust it said it planned for 30% of the fleet being off the road at any one time and on Monday October 23 it was 31%. 

At the time, a spokesperson said a replacement programme was underway to replace ageing vehicles. 

A specialist was also introduced at the trust towards the end of last year to help tackle the issues.