The NHS employs more than 1.7 million people, and of those 18,687 are ambulance staff. It has environmental targets of a 10 per cent reduction in carbon emissions by 2015 and 80 per cent by 2050. In response to this, the UK’s Ambulance Services are taking great strides to become greener.
Yorkshire Ambulance Service (YAS) is the first ambulance service in the UK to participate in the Carbon Trust Carbon Management Programme. It is actively working to reduce spending on fuel and reduce the carbon footprint of the Trust by 30 per cent by 2015, and is also looking at ways to reduce spending on fuel.
As part of this commitment, YAS is trialling an extended-range electric vehicle in its emergency fleet in the York area.
The Vauxhall Ampera car will operate as a rapid response vehicle responding to emergencies in the city to see how range-extended electric vehicles might be incorporated into the Trust’s 900+ vehicle fleet (emergency and Patient Transport Service) in the future.
The Ampera is essentially an electric vehicle, in that it is always the battery that powers the motor. But when the battery runs out of charge, a small petrol engine kicks in to power a generator which creates electricity to continue to power the battery. This extends the range and addresses the limited range capacity of a pure electric battery vehicle, making it a safer option for use by emergency services.
Committed to cutting carbon
City of York Council has agreed to support the trial by making plug-in electric recharging points available across the city. As part of its low emissions strategy, the Council is working to reduce air emissions across York and over the next 12 months will be introducing some electric vehicles into its own fleet, rolling out electric vehicle recharging points in council car parks and launching the Eco-stars fleet recognition programme.
Councillor Dave Merrett, cabinet member for transport, planning and sustainability, said: “I very much welcome Yorkshire Ambulance Service’s move to introducing lower emission vehicles into their fleet.”
Dick Ellam, Vauxhall special vehicles manager, said: “We are delighted that Yorkshire Ambulance Service is trialling the multi award-winning Ampera. The Ampera is the first electric vehicle suitable for use by the emergency services and its sophisticated propulsion system offers all the benefits of electric driving, without any of the range anxiety associated with pure electric vehicles.”
Further green initiatives
Elsewhere in its operations, YAS has introduced eco-driving programmes for some drivers, which can result between five and ten per cent on fuel bills.
The Trust also changed its car lease policy so that those entitled to a vehicle now have to select one that emits under 130g/km, and is actively encouraging hybrids or electric vehicles.
YAS is also working with Leeds University to look at the potential savings that can be achieved with aerodynamic ambulances. Initial findings suggest that drag forces acting on the common box-body ambulance designs could be reduced by 20 per cent by employing aerodynamic styling.
South Central Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SCAS) is the first ambulance service in England to introduce solar panels on to its Rapid Response Vehicles (RRV).
The Trust started trialling solar panels in January 2012 and from September 2012 started fitting them on all new RRVs. To date solar panels have been installed on 36 of the Trust’s RRVs to supply power to the secondary battery system that powers all emergency equipment on these vehicles. SCAS is currently in the process of fitting solar panels to a double crewed ambulance to evaluate their use on these.
SCAS Green Team Co-ordinator Brian Miller said: “South Central Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust is taking the initiative to introduce solar panels to its Rapid Response Vehicles (RRVs) to reduce fuel consumption, fuel and battery replacement costs, the Trust’s carbon footprint and the need for RRVs to return to base and traditional shoreline systems to recharge vehicle batteries.”
Better patient care
The introduction of solar panels means that vehicles no longer need to standby with their engines running to recharge essential battery systems, or to return to base to recharge vehicle battery systems using static shoreline systems which mean that the vehicles are unable to respond to emergencies whilst batteries are being charged.
The use of solar panels means that the Trust’s fleet of RRVs can be fully mobile at all times to provide the best in mobile healthcare services to patients suffering life threatening injury or illness across the four counties of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Hampshire and Oxfordshire.
The introduction of solar panels to SCAS’ RRVs means that the Trust effectively has more vehicles more able to respond to more incidents more of the time, thus helping to ease demand on the service against a background of a general increase in demand for the service of in excess of more than 10 per cent per annum.
SCAS will be trialling solar panels on Front Line Double Crewed ambulances generating more benefits for more of our patients and increased operational cost savings.
The Trust is charged with having to make savings of £30 million over five years, equating to around four per cent of its budget every year for five years.
The introduction of solar panels to its fleet is just one example of the imaginative ways in which it is achieving these savings whilst delivering an enhanced quality service and best care to its patients as well as benefitting the environment.
Electric ambulance in Scotland
The Scottish Ambulance Service is trialling its first electric ambulance as part of the Patient Transport Service, which takes patients who have a medical or mobility need to and from healthcare appointments. It has a range of approximately 100 miles between charges, depending on operational use. It can be charged in around five hours. Other than a much quieter journey, patients will notice no difference from a normal patient transport ambulance.
The introduction of the electric ambulance is part of a wider investment to upgrade the Patient Transport Service, which undertakes 1.2 million journeys every year, with a new direct booking system for patients and state of the art mobile technology in all vehicles. The new system has been launched in the north and west of Scotland and goes live in the east of the country later this year. It is delivering a more accessible and personal service for patients that has greater flexibility to better meet their needs.
Attending the unveiling, Scottish Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said: “Our NHS is embracing new technologies – and not only are these electric ambulances environmentally friendly, they also support the best possible patient care.”
Dr Sam Gardner, Senior Climate Change Policy Officer at WWF Scotland said: “It’s great to see such leadership from the Scottish Ambulance Service. This trial shows that electric vehicles can play a role even in very demanding roles across the public sector fleet. Previous WWF research has identified that electric vehicles need to replace 300,000 conventional cars by 2020 to help ensure we meet our climate emission targets, and fleets will play a major role. We hope that SAS plan to introduce many more EVs as they replace more than 570 vehicles over the next four years.
“While much more transport spending must be redirected to encourage people to walk, cycle or use public transport, we must also take steps to reduce emissions from the cars on our roads. Alongside measures to get people out of their cars, a switch to electric vehicles is going to be an essential part of tackling climate change.”