NHS is trialling electric ambulances to help the planet and patients

NHS is trialling electric ambulances to help the planet and patients
© iStock/VV Shots

NHS electric ambulances will aim to relieve pressure on ambulance services and help the NHS become net zero by 2040.

Eight ambulance trusts are trialling 21 zero-emission vehicles of various types, with six of the electric ambulances aiming to tackle mental health in the community. The new vehicles will focus on cutting emergency response times for people needing mental health attention and reduce the demand for traditional double-crewed ambulances.

The electric ambulances are part of a £2.1m investment to support the NHS goal of being the first health service to commit to net zero by 2040. Each trust has agreed to a plan to achieve carbon savings in the upcoming years – equivalent to removing over 500,000 cars from the road.

Dedicated mental health response electric ambulances

Introducing electric ambulances to respond to mental health crises will free up the time of generic ambulances by offering a dedicated service. The vehicles are already employed across the Northwest; the electric ambulances have a distinctive design and carry emergency equipment, enabling them to respond to serious life-threatening emergencies when required. They have fewer fluorescent markings and a much less clinical interior to help put patients at ease.

James Cook, Director for Primary and Community Care Improvement at NHS England, said: “These new vehicles are an important addition to our emergency fleet and will change the way we deliver care in the community – helping us see more patients whilst reducing demand on traditional double crewed ambulances. All while helping the NHS meet its broader green ambitions.”

Greener vehicles to tackle other emergencies

The vehicles can be utilised as a rapid response ambulance when someone is experiencing a mental health crisis, providing a safe space for patients and healthcare workers.

Other environmentally-friendly vehicles include those equipped to support less severe emergencies and those that can transfer seriously ill patients to and from High Dependency Units – relieving traditional ambulances and guaranteeing patients get to the correct location for the right treatment.

Dr Nick Watts, Chief Sustainability Officer at NHS England, said: “We know that climate change has an impact on health, and the NHS can play its part in preventing ill-health by looking at new ways to reduce emissions.

“Each electric vehicle costs less to run and maintain, meaning these new vehicles will spend more time on the road and change the way we deliver care in the community – whilst also cutting our carbon footprint as we strive to make NHS services greener and more efficient as part of our ambition to hit net zero by 2040.”

Claire Murdoch, National Director for mental health, NHS England said: “The mental health response vehicles in this new green fleet are an important addition to mental health care, and we have a double win of being able to improve the experience of patients in crisis whilst also caring for the planet.”

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