Ambulances sit out of action

IN ACTION An ambulance responds to a 999 call. ''Picture: Paul Jacobs (110484-1)
IN ACTION An ambulance responds to a 999 call. ''Picture: Paul Jacobs (110484-1)
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A FIFTH of ambulances in Hampshire were off the road this winter because of defects, it has been reported.

Figures obtained from South Central Ambulance Service showed that 20 per cent of ambulances were off the road between October and January.

The issue has led to complaints from paramedics, a board member has said.

Senior SCAS board member Eddie Weiss said complaints were made to him during his visits to ambulance stations.

He said it was ‘frustrating’ for crews to see ambulances sitting out of action.

The main reasons for ambulances being off the road were problems with tyres, electrical faults, and tail-lift defects.

SCAS said it had planned to have 20 extra vehicles in time for winter but these had arrived later than planned, and it was only now getting them ready to be used.

John Nicholls, chief operating officer at SCAS, said that ‘our vehicle off road rate is too high at the moment’.

He said measures have been put in place to address the issue, such as increasing the availability of mechanics.

Seven new tail-lifts are being ordered for ambulances due to the problems.

SCAS said the company that supplied the tail-lifts had gone bust so the ambulance service was unable to fix them when they became faulty.

Phil Pimlott, from SCAS, said: ‘We try wherever we can to learn from those lessons, look at the equipment we’ve got, and look at who’s supplying them to make sure we can try and reduce that risk as much as possible, but there is always a risk, unfortunately, that things will go wrong.’

The problems come as SCAS has approved plans to build a bigger ambulance station to serve Portsmouth and the surrounding areas, with work due to start this month.

Stations in Portsmouth, Gosport, Fareham and Havant are due to close later this year.

In their place will be the South East Hampshire Resource Centre at a site in Northarbour Road, Cosham, Portsmouth.

The building will be near to Rolls-Royce Marine Electrical Systems.