Tony Page from West Midlands Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust talks to Public Sector Fleet Manager about his role and the demands placed on the Trust’s fleet
WMAS employs approximately 4,000 staff and operates from a network of over 90 Community Ambulance Stations and 16 new fleet preparation hubs across the region. The average age of the fleet is, for the first time, under five years old. There are two Emergency Operations Centres taking over 3,000 emergency ‘999’ calls each day. Every year WMAS responds to more than one million emergency and urgent incidents completing approximately 700,000 non-emergency patient journeys. The Trust also provides emergency preparedness services, special operations and some primary care services. These core services are supported through a range of clinical and corporate functions.
What are the main issues you face in your day-to-day role?
Ensuring operations have sufficient resource available and the fleet continues to operate in a safe and compliant condition.
The rising cost of fuel is a major concern for fleet operators, what are you doing to combat this?
We factor fuel efficiency into our vehicle selection criteria, we operate one of the most fuel efficient ambulance fleets in the UK. 70% of our fuel is drawn from our own bunkers which is purchased utilising a nationally agreed framework at very competitive rates. We also use a single fuel card provider, again as part of a national framework agreement and we closely monitor their usage.
What other issues and challenges are currently facing emergency fleet operators?
This is no different to any commercial enterprise, we have challenging budget constraints that need to be met – operational demand is increasing which results in increased mileage – it’s a balancing act which demands we constantly monitor and review our performance looking for ways to innovate and improve.
Is it possible to reduce costs and still offer an efficient emergency service?
Yes, through careful selection of vehicles and equipment, setting realistic replacement schedules, matching maintenance programmes to utilisation and understanding where the cost drivers are we have delivered a number of efficiencies which have reduced costs.
Do electric vehicles have a presence on the WMAS fleet and are you running any other carbon-cutting initiatives?
Not currently, we do intend taking a careful look at this later in the year with potential for trials in some of our non front-line operations.
How much does technology affect your role and what initiatives have you rolled out recently – or plan to roll out – utilising new technology?
From a vehicle perspective – converted Ambulances and Response Cars are fitted with various technology that require our engineers to be at the top of their game to maximize vehicle availability.
We are currently working towards implementation of CCTV and a system to provide us with vehicle telemetry for a number of our front line emergency vehicles. The Fleet team implemented a new fleet management system (Fleetwave 2) into our operation at the end of 2013 which is transforming the way the fleet management operation is run.
How do you make decisions about which vehicles and equipment you source for your fleets?
With the inclusion of a number of stakeholders involved within the Trust, we consider a number of factors, clearly purchase price is important but we also analyse a number of other criteria such as, whole life costs, aftersales support, quality, use of sustainable products (particularly in converted specialist vehicles).
What is the most rewarding element of your role?
Being part of a professional team in Fleet Services who continually manage to surprise me with the dedication shown to deliver day in, day out, regardless of the size of the mountain and knowing as a team we make a difference to the quality of patient care delivered.
…and what is the most frustrating?
Emails – what happened to talking...
Do you think there is a place for shared services within the public sector?
Yes, I think there is opportunity providing it is approached in the correct manner. West Midlands Police have recently agreed to support our motorcycle response fleet, with their specialist knowledge of this equipment. It made perfect sense to partner with them rather than investing additional funding into setting up our own support.