Some of the new ambulances.

A £50m roll-out of 440 new and improved ambulances is nearing completion.

The East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust (EEAST), which covers the whole of Norfolk, began the replacement programme in 2019/20 when 214 bespoke vehicles took the roads.

A further 226 are being replaced this financial year and will be responding to patients by April and the final 50 ambulances in EEAST’s existing fleet will be replaced from 2021/22.

The new ambulances have been specially designed to make transfers more comfortable for patients while improving safety for crews and the care they are able to provide.

In the coming weeks, the trust is also providing ambulance officers with 32 bespoke Volkswagon vans which have more space than the vehicles they are replacing. 

As well as allowing staff to carry a wider range of life-saving equipment, the vans also have a bespoke incident command area to manage call-outs more effectively.

The trust has also leased 19 new vehicles specially designed to cater for patients who have suffered falls or mental health issues, along with 36 replacement vehicles for its non-emergency patient transport service.

All of the vehicles have been developed following consultation with staff, trade unions and, where appropriate, patients and carers, so the trust can ensure they will meet the needs of the people using them, a spokesman said.

Chris Wiltshire, head of fleet with EEAST, said: “The vehicles are also significantly lighter than our existing fleet, making them more efficient and environmentally-friendly as CO2 emissions, fuel costs and maintenance will be reduced. This will save more than £3m annually when all of the vehicles have been replaced.”

Hospitals in the region have also been equipped with 38 additional Stryker stretchers, which are used by ambulance crews to transfer patients between critical care units.