Press Release

Varadkar announces 50 new & 35 refurbished ambulances for 2016

Investment means total of 150 ambulances replaced in two years

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar has welcomed €18 million in capital funding for the National Ambulance Service in 2016 to purchase 50 new ambulances and 35 refurbished ambulances, under the HSE’s capital programme.

It means the fleet should expand to 268 vehicles by the end of the year, depending on decommissioning requirements of older vehicles.

Minister Varadkar said: “I am delighted to make this investment in new emergency vehicles and look forward to them being in service. The introduction of over 150 vehicles in 2015 and 2016 is a real boost for the ambulance service. It allows us to replace older vehicles and expand services, especially in non-emergency transport. Moving patients from high to lower acuity facilities means that patient flow in our major hospitals will improve, which should help to ease pressure on our emergency departments.

“Replacing older vehicles will also help reduce costs and improve reliability. Our ambulances and crews cover enormous distances every year. It is vital that we continue to invest in and upgrade our fleet, so that our highly trained paramedics can give the best service they can, when our patients need it. I am delighted that additional resources will be provided to the ambulance service in 2016, to ensure ongoing improvements in service delivery.”

A further ten Intermediate Care Vehicles will also be purchased bringing the total number of these vehicles, used for non-emergency patient transport, from 50 to 60. These perform hospital transfers and can carry more than one patient. They now carry over 80% of such traffic, freeing up emergency ambulances to respond to emergency calls.

The funding will also purchase a new rapid response vehicle, bringing that fleet up to 120 vehicles. Rapid response vehicles ensure that advanced life support arrives quickly to the scene of an accident, so that sophisticated treatment can begin while the ambulance is en route.

These vehicles come on top of the 65 vehicles purchased last year. All are being supplied under contract by Wilker Auto Converters of Clara, County Offaly. They will be spread throughout the fleet nationally, to replace vehicles which have reached the end of their life-cycle and to support additional services.

The NAS fleet replacement programme is part of an ongoing strategic investment in equipment, technology and clinical standards. This has included different types of response vehicles, including rapid response and intermediate care vehicles and the EAS helicopter service. It has also seen new technology such as the single national control system, TETRA digital radio and communications, vehicle tracking and computer-aided dispatch.

NAS has now successfully integrated eircodes into the new CAD system. This will assist in the provision of a quicker, safer service to the patient.

Cardiac testing and monitoring mean that patients can be triaged at the scene and brought directly to a cardiac centre if necessary. Defibrillators, as well as mechanical in-vehicle CPR devices, allow resuscitation to continue safely in a mobile ambulance. Community first responder capacity, where local volunteers are dispatched at the same time as an ambulance continues to increase, with over 130 groups in 18 counties and more teams being developed.