New Welsh ambulance fleet off road due to safety fears

The Welsh Ambulance Trust says its ability to deliver services is not compromised.

Related Stories

A fleet of new ambulances is being kept off the road because of safety concerns, a BBC Wales investigation has revealed.

The Welsh Ambulance Service confirmed that half the 42 vehicles due to be operational weeks ago are unsatisfactory and not yet in service.

Of 56 potential problems identified, 12 could compromise safety.

Initially describing it as an "internal matter", the trust says its ability to deliver services is not compromised.

The problems include the positioning of seats, cupboards and handles, as well as a shortage of interior space.

There are also concerns that the opening and closing of the rear door could potentially cause injury.

It is thought the bill for modifying the ambulances could run into hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Start Quote

The trust is confident these vehicles will be in service at the earliest opportunity”

End Quote Welsh Ambulance Trust

A Welsh Ambulance Service Trust spokesperson said only half the 42 new Mercedes 519 ambulances were in service.

"We have made a decision to delay the introduction of 21 vehicles following an inspection of the ambulances by our vehicle working group, which included senior management members who agreed this action," said the spokesperson.

"The trust and the manufacturer are working very closely through a number of modifications and adjustments, most of which are minor, to make sure these vehicles will match and surpass the standard set by our current fleet of emergency ambulances and we are satisfied with the progress made."

'Serious questions'

The trust stressed that "none of the current fleet marked for replacement by these new ambulances will be taken out of service until they are ready, so this decision will not have any impact on the current service provided to the public by the Welsh Ambulance Service."

"The trust is confident these vehicles will be in service at the earliest opportunity," added the spokesperson.

Swansea University professor of health economics Ceri Phillips said "serious questions have to be asked" about the trust's commissioning process.

Start Quote

This is public money and we need to be assured that it is being spent effectively and efficiently”

End Quote Peter Black AM Liberal Democrat

"Who is actually going to pick up the bill for the additional work that needs to be undertaken on the ambulances?"

The vehicles were intended to replace older ambulances currently in use as part of the 221 emergency vehicle fleet.

Liberal Democrat AM Peter Black said: "The news that the Wales Ambulance Service is once more struggling with procurement issues is both disturbing and unwelcome.

"This is public money and we need to be assured that it is being spent effectively and efficiently."

In 2005 it emerged 46 newly converted vehicles were overweight when fully laden with fuel and people, and needed to be altered to make them safe.

'Waste of money'

In 2002 the trust bought 30 ambulances but the supplier went out of business before the contract was completed, and those which were delivered were found unsuitable for work in emergencies.

The Unite union, which represents many paramedics in Wales, said it was aware of the concerns, and hoped to work with the ambulance trust to resolve them.

Plaid Cymru AM Llyr Huws Gruffydd said: "To see this happening again, and the potential waste of hundreds of thousands of pounds of public money is quite galling.

"It's a total waste of public money - if we as taxpayers end up having to pay for the necessary renovations then I think it's an abhorrence.

Start Quote

The Welsh Labour Government urgently needs to get a grip on this issue”

End Quote Darren Millar AM Conservative

"It's totally unacceptable and serious questions have to be asked about the way the ambulance trust is run."

Conservative health spokesman, Darren Millar, also criticised the purchases.

"The Welsh Labour Government urgently needs to get a grip on this issue. Hundreds of thousands of pounds could be needlessly wasted here, and not for the first time.

"That money should be spent on cutting waiting times for ambulances, not adjusting their seats and doors because the order was wrong.

"This raises serious concerns about the ambulance trust's procurement process and Labour needs to provide assurances that public money is being spent properly." he said.

More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More Wales stories

RSS

Features

  • Peaky Blinders publicity shotBrum do

    Why is the Birmingham accent so difficult to mimic?


  • Oliver CromwellA brief history

    The 900-year-story behind the creation of a UK parliament


  • Image of Ankor Wat using lidarJungle Atlantis

    How lasers have revealed an ancient city beneath the forest


  • TigerBard taste? Watch

    Are trailer videos on social media spoiling theatre?


  • Agents with the US Secret Service, such as this one, are responsible for guarding the presidentHard at work

    White House break-in adds to Secret Service woes


BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.