A specialist has been brought in at the region's ambulance trust after ongoing issues with vehicles being off the roads in recent months. 

Of the dual-staffed ambulances covering Suffolk and north east Essex at the East of England Ambulance Service Trust on Monday October 23, 50% were off the road according to an internal email seen by the East Anglian Daily Times. 

While the trust they said that they planned for 30% of their fleet being off the road at any one time, and on October 23 it was 31%, a previous 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. 

Now, a trust spokesperson has confirmed someone with specialist knowledge has been introduced to help with the issue. 

"The challenges around vehicles off-road have complex causes, including shortages of vehicle parts and global supply-chain issues," they said.
"To improve service planning and get more vehicles on the road, we have appointed someone with specialist knowledge and experience to help us investigate the root causes of these challenges and put sustainable changes in place to remedy them.

"This includes reviewing our supply chains, internal process/practices, and our procedures for opportunities to increase the number of ambulances we have on the road." 

East Anglian Daily Times: An EEAST spokesperson confirmed a specialist has been introducedAn EEAST spokesperson confirmed a specialist has been introduced (Image: Simon Finlay, Newsquest)

According to the spokesperson, the trust is reviewing contracts for spare part procurement, reviewing workshop loading capacity to shorten turnaround times and increasing stock of spare parts. 

They said they are also introducing 10 mobile vehicle repair vans, three of which will be deployed in the Suffolk and north east Essex area, seven-day working on their Operations Support Desk and weekend management support. 

The trust will shortly receive a delivery of 89 vehicles to replace older ambulances, increasing the fleet of double-staffed ambulances to 513 before the end of March 2024.

The spokesperson said: "Together these measures will both increase our numbers of vehicles and ensure that more of them are on the road and ready to convey our patients." 

In August, a Freedom of Information request carried out by the East Anglian Daily Times 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 revealed that in July there were 113 breakdowns recorded by the trust - 103 Fiat ambulances and 10 Mercedes vehicles. 

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.