NHS Lothian has demonstrated its commitment to achieving the best possible value for money by investing in a very special Mercedes-Benz 4×4.
When fitted with a snowplough blade and gritting hopper the 5.0-tonne Sprinter crewcab can be employed to keep hospital and health centre car parks, access roads and ambulance bays clear of snow and ice.
But because both the blade and hopper are demountable, the vehicle does not have to stand idle when not required for winter maintenance duties. Instead, it is used by NHS Lothian’s estates management team to transport grass-cutting machinery and for general utility work.
NHS Lothian provides a comprehensive range of primary, community-based and acute hospital services for the populations of Edinburgh, Midlothian, East Lothian and West Lothian.
Supplied by Central Belt dealer Western Commercial, the new Sprinter 516CDI has a factory-built seven-man crewcab which features three-point belts on all seats. The vehicle is the subject of a lease agreement with public sector vehicle finance specialist Automotive Leasing, a division of LeasePlan and long-standing supplier to NHS Lothian.
The all-wheel-drive chassis cab’s alloy tipping body is the work of George Newberry Coachbuilders, of Coatbridge, while the 2.3-metre EZ-Mount DrivePro snowplough and 1,500-litre Polyhawk hopper are by US manufacturer Meyer.
NHS Lothian’s Estates Division relied previously on purpose-built snow-clearing vehicles which could not be put to other uses, and which were relatively uncomfortable for its operatives. By contrast, so impressed has it been with the flexibility and performance of its first Sprinter 4×4 that it has already ordered a second, identical unit.
NHS Lothian Estates Operations Officer Ian Strachan is based, like the new vehicle, at St John’s Hospital, Livingston. He said: "We have two more hospitals as well as numerous smaller sites to keep open when temperatures drop and snow and ice threaten to become a problem.
"We briefly considered another manufacturer’s 4×4 chassis but it was too expensive, and too big for our purposes. However, when Judith Eadie (Automotive Leasing’s Account Manager for Scotland and Northern Ireland) suggested the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter we were immediately impressed.
"It’s just the right size – sufficiently compact to access tight areas but able to carry a decent payload – and the drivers love it, which is not entirely surprising given that our previous winter maintenance vehicles had old-fashioned leaf springs!"
Powered by a 163hp Euro 5 engine that combines low emissions with exceptional fuel efficiency, the 4×4 Sprinter employs rear-wheel drive for normal road use but when extra traction is needed drivers can select four-wheel drive at the push of a button. The 4×4 Sprinter also sits higher by 110mm at the front and 80mm at the back, than its standard counterpart.
Mr Strachan continued: "We’ve not operated Mercedes-Benz vehicles before but you see plenty of Sprinters on the road and the manufacturer has a great reputation for reliability and durability. It’s every inch a premium product, yet Automotive Leasing was also able to put together a very competitively priced package that includes a reassuring bumper-to-bumper warranty."
The new vehicle is being serviced under a Mercedes-Benz repair and maintenance contract by the workshop team at Western Commercial’s Broxburn dealership. "First impressions of Western Commercial are very positive," confirmed Mr Strachan. "Spare parts appear to be very fairly priced and I’m optimistic that Western will be able to provide the level of back-up we need."