East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS) runs a fleet of 540 emergency response and patient transport vehicles across six counties – Lincolnshire, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Northamptonshire, Leicestershire and Rutland. Its three fleet managers all have motor industry backgrounds and so approach fleet management with sound commercial and professional perspectives.
Steve Farnsworth (pictured), head of fleet services, said: “We heard about Van Excellence through the trade press and another ambulance service which had achieved accreditation so we put ourselves through an audit to see what would happen. It was a sense check in terms of what we did and where we want to go with it.”
EMAS passed with flying colours but decided to use the process to push its continual improvement programme. One crucial area is its workshops, which ensure high uptime for vehicles operating as mobile treatment centres and which therefore require a high degree of technical training beyond automotive repair.
“We have since taken up full membership of FTA, standardised our workshops and we are booking six-monthly FTA inspections of vehicles which have just emerged from our workshops to ensure our technical excellence,” continued Steve. “As the third stage, we plan to have all our fleet technicians accredited to a professional scheme. Every year we will look for additional courses for our technicians. So Van Excellence was a stepping stone for us.”
In-house technical expertise is particularly crucial, as EMAS runs 24/7, 365 days a year, cannot downscale activity in extreme weather and require a very flexible workforce. The entire technical team has just been trained on new diagnostic equipment for the Fiat Ducato which is EMAS’s primary ambulance.
Driving an ambulance is a particularly skillful task and so driver training is conducted by EMAS’s Organisational Learning department which has recently advertised for four driver-trainers. Their role will be to spend time with crews, noting the good practice as well as offering constructive advice.
“We are investing £100,000 in additional driver-training posts to increase our proactive training which will ultimately reduce risk, downtime and cost,” says Steve. “We have worked with insurers to benchmark our accident rates against standard van fleets – its very similar. Also, we are working jointly with other ambulance trusts and insurers to further reduce risk. We also lead the way in terms of same-day reporting of incidents.”
“The Van Excellence scheme was a great starting point for us to assess where we are, what we can improve and that we are doing the right things. The FTA team were delightful, they worked closely with us, and it is a good and positive learning experience. We have our accreditation displayed in our main workshops because we are proud of it,” concluded Steve.