A union has shared "real concern" it was revealed almost half of the region's ambulances were broken down at some stage in August – more than double the total recorded the previous month. 

Between August 1 and August 31, 239 breakdowns were recorded by the East of England Ambulance Service Trust, which has 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 now make up 442 of the trust's vehicles. 

The remaining 27 breakdowns were amongst Mercedes model ambulances, 47 of which are still in the fleet from before the Fiats were introduced. 

This means 47.96% of the fleet's Fiat ambulances and 57.45% of the Mercedes model vehicles were broken down at some stage of August. 

East Anglian Daily Times: An EEAST Mercedes ambulanceAn EEAST Mercedes ambulance (Image: Simon Finlay, Newsquest)

In July, the East Anglian Daily Times reported that 113 breakdowns were recorded in the trust across that month – 103 of which were Fiat ambulances, and 10 of which were Mercedes. 

This means more the double the number of breakdowns took place in August than those recorded in July.

A spokesman for UNISON, a union for those working in public services, said of the latest data: “It’s a real concern that increasing numbers of ambulances are off the roads.

“We can only hope this trend doesn’t continue and add another barrier to crews getting to those that need them as quickly as possible.

“Patients need these vehicles to be out on the road, not stuck in garages.”

An East of England Ambulance Service spokesman said: “Our fleet of nearly 500 ambulances serves patients across the East of England, and – as with any large fleet - that number allows for the fact that there will always be some vehicles off the road for servicing and repair. 

“Despite challenges we have faced due to global supply chain issues, the number of vehicles we have on the road each day remains high, and due to the hard work of our teams we have seen a reduction in vehicles off the road in the past month.”

The spokesman added that the rise in numbers of ambulances off the road in August was due to a higher demand for air conditioning unit maintenance. 

East Anglian Daily Times: A spokesperson said the rise was due to a higher demand for air conditioning unit maintenance A spokesperson said the rise was due to a higher demand for air conditioning unit maintenance  (Image: EEAST)

The move to bring in the newer Fiat Ducato ambulances, 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.

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

The modified Fiat Ducatos have been rolled out across the country, with other services including West Midland Ambulance Service and the North West Ambulance Service also introducing them.