A union chair has been left 'disappointed' as he said new vehicles introduced at the region's ambulance trust have been found to have a 'host of safety issues'.

A dozen new Renault Master ambulances were introduced to the East of England Ambulance Service Trust in December to enable the trust to respond to patients during the winter period, but issues have now been raised around the safety of the vehicles. 

It is believed ambulance staff have concerns about several issues on the ambulances, including the carry chair being at a height that means some people have to lift it above their head to remove it, the fact that the side step can only be operated by someone on the outside of the ambulance, and the fact that the vehicles only have one radio so if a crew is split up they can't communicate.

UNISON East of England Ambulance Service branch chair, Glenn Carrington, said: "In December UNISON Health and Safety representatives were assured that these vehicles met the required standards and were safe. We’re disappointed to find that the vehicles come with a host of safety issues.

East Anglian Daily Times: UNISON East of England Ambulance Service branch chair, Glenn CarringtonUNISON East of England Ambulance Service branch chair, Glenn Carrington (Image: UNISON)

"Ambulance crews are unhappy, and we can see why. We’re raising concerns about the vehicles with EEAST but would have hoped these would have been picked up and sorted out before they were put on the road.

"Unsuitable vehicles and unnecessary risks make what is already a challenging job harder. Ambulance workers deserve better."

An East of England Ambulance Service spokesperson said: "We purchased 12 new Renault Master ambulances in December 2023 to help the Trust respond to patients promptly during the busy winter period.

"The ambulances comply with all legislation and were assessed by our Health and Safety department before being used operationally to ensure the safety of our clinicians and patients.

"Feedback from staff who have used the vehicles has been predominantly positive and we have been working with colleagues to address any issues identified."

There are more than 500 ambulances in the EEAST fleet, and the trust has a replacement programme underway for a third of their vehicles that are nearing the end of their operational life of five years. 

East Anglian Daily Times: There are more than 500 ambulances in the EEAST fleet. Pictured: EEAST Fiat ambulanceThere are more than 500 ambulances in the EEAST fleet. Pictured: EEAST Fiat ambulance (Image: EEAST)

The trust confirmed 29 MAN and Ford vehicles are due to arrive in April, with a further 63 due over the next six months, with the intention that the Renault vehicles will continue to be in the emergency ambulance fleet. 

A spokesperson said specific training is provided on the correct use of the carry chair on the new ambulances, using either two people or deploying the ramp to reduce the height. 

They said the driver of the ambulance would be expected to deploy and store the sidestep or ramp as part of their role and added that the Renault ambulances are due to be upgraded with the new national program for mobile data terminals and radios later this year. 

They said they have not been approached by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) about the vehicles, but would work with them if they were.

A HSE spokesperson said: "Concerns have recently been made to us about the new vehicles being used by East of England Ambulance Service Trust.

"We will now look into the matters raised."

The trust came under fire when they introduced Fiat Ducato ambulances in 2019 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.

This comes as the East Anglian Daily Times has been revealing ongoing issues with ambulance breakdowns amongst the trust's Fiat model ambulances, almost half of which were broken down at some stage of August 2023.