The South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SECAmb) has based a series of new and innovative vehicle concepts on all three models from the award-winning Mercedes-Benz Vans range.
SECAmb, which serves Kent, Surrey and Sussex, has long-standing links with the three-pointed star – its 300 A&E ambulances are based on 5.0-tonne Sprinter chassis cabs while it also assigns Mercedes-Benz vehicles to other tasks such as non-emergency patient transport and logistical support.
Over the final quarter of 2014 Dealer Rossetts Commercials supplied SECAmb with 30 Euro VI-engined Sprinter 519 CDIs with automatic transmissions and Wilker box bodies, ordered through its ongoing, annual front-line fleet replacement programme.
This time, though, Rossetts has also delivered a number of additional vehicles, which have been commissioned by the Trust’s Fleet Operations and Driving Standards departments for new roles. These include:
· Four critical care ambulances based on the same chassis and body combination as the standard accident and emergency units, but with additional equipment for treating the most seriously ill patients;
· Thirty-seven 2.8-tonne Vito 116 CDI Dualiners with second rows of seats and purpose-built interiors allowing patients to be treated for minor wounds and injuries rather than being taken to hospital, which are being allocated to specialist paramedic practitioners as a more practical and efficient alternative to a conventional fast response car;
· Five 4.0-tonne Sprinter 419 CDI vans now operating as SECAmb’s first dedicated Driver Training Units, which have been specially converted and fitted with an array of cameras and high-tech telematics equipment to complement and increase the learning experience;
· Three Logistics Support Units also based on Sprinter 419 CDI vans and used to transport medical equipment and pharmaceutical supplies between hospitals and other establishments, and
· 14 Compact 109 CDI models from the Citan small van range, which SECAmb is trialling for the first time with a view to using for logistics support and, possibly, providing to community-based ‘first responders’.
Justin Wand, SECAmb’s Head of Fleet Operations, said: “We have switched from a ‘one size fits all’ vehicle strategy, to an approach which recognises that the fleet should reflect the changing clinical requirements of our patients and the specialisms within our workforce.
“However, while acknowledging the need for vehicles of different sizes and specification, we also wanted to standardise on a consistent, reliable platform. Mercedes-Benz was the obvious partner, not least because in the Sprinter, Vito and Citan its range includes a model which is right for every application.
“Plus, of course, we already know from long experience that on a whole-life cost basis, taking account of factors such as fuel economy, reliability and maintenance, Mercedes-Benz products represent better value than those of its competitors.”
The four new critical care ambulances – along with a single ‘proof of concept’ vehicle which has been in service for a year – have now been strategically deployed to provide the best possible coverage.
The Vito-based specialist paramedic practitioner units represent a first foothold for Mercedes-Benz in SECAmb’s ‘single response’ fleet of approximately 200 vehicles. “These are assigned to individual members of staff whose job is to get to the patient as quickly as possible then assess and initiate a treatment regime,” said Mr Wand. “The Vito Dualiners carry low-level diagnostics and other equipment, as well as communications technology and refreshments – we simply could not squeeze the same level of functionality into the estate cars we’ve used previously.”
SECAmb’s Driver Training Units are now supporting the educational process which all emergency response drivers must undergo in order to use the equipment and claim legal exemptions. Also converted by Wilker, they are fitted with state-of-the-art CCTV and driver safety/telematics systems that measure all facets of driving style, including vehicle acceleration and braking, pitch and yaw.
Driving Standards Manager Simon Macartney explained: “These vehicles are designed to educate and support drivers and will help us not only to improve educational standards but also to reduce CO2 emissions and vehicle wear and tear, and fight spurious claims of poor driving or collisions.”
SECAmb teamed-up with driver safety and educational specialist A2OM to develop the Driver Training Units, which feature an eye-catching range of safety messages promoting the DriveIQ program on the rear doors.
Simon Macartney continued: “The face of driver training and education is changing, as are the students themselves, and adapting to these new circumstances was a clear motivator behind our decision to build these dedicated vehicles.
“The crew cab environment allows an instructor to deliver targeted training to three students simultaneously. The session can then be reviewed and the learning outcomes shared in what is effectively a classroom in the rear of the vehicle – those taking part can even see their reactions to different manoeuvres captured on the cab-facing camera and replayed on a 48in screen.”
Justin Wand added: “We take our partnership with Mercedes-Benz and Rossetts Commercials very seriously. Both have been very keen to work with us as we continue to improve the service which they support, along with the other Mercedes-Benz dealers that cover our 4,000 square-mile area of operation.”
South East Coast Ambulance Service employs over 3,200 staff, 85% of whom are on operational duties, working from a network of 70 sites across Kent, Surrey and Sussex.