Fears for patients as NHS launches electric ambulances ‘significantly limited’ by their range and recharge time

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Written By Rivera Claudia

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  • The new environmentally friendly ambulances will take four hours to recharge 
  • Paramedics are concerned the NHS is putting net zero above patient safety
  • There is also a huge cost to the NHS – the vehicles cost £150,000 each 

Desperate patients could now be forced to wait even longer for emergency medical care after the NHS launched new electric ambulances.

The move by the NHS comes as it works on implementing greener policies.

Whistleblowers have said that due to electric vehicles having to take time to recharge and not having a large range, there are concerns that the NHS is putting its goals for net zero above patient safety.

The Telegraph reported that an evaluation of the pilot scheme found the ambulances took up to four hours to charge and travelled an average of 70 miles between charging.

Papers published on the pilot scheme warn that the lack of range is a ‘significant factor’.

The vehicles have a range of 100 miles, but ambulances in rural areas typically cover twice that distance in a shift.

The report published following the pilot states it is a requirement for ambulances to have a range of 160 miles. 

Standard ambulances can cover up to 800 miles a day and it only take a few minutes at the petrol station to fill them up.

Richard Webber, a paramedic and spokesman for the College of Paramedics, told the Telegraph: ‘I think they really need to produce the evidence that this is safe before this is rolled out beyond urban areas.

‘I would be very wary of that.

‘If I have got a very sick patient, someone who has had a heart attack and I am trying to get them to hospital I don’t want to be worrying about the battery.’

An emergency medical consultant said: ‘The worst-case scenario is running out of juice with a patient in the back. I think this is untested territory, I would rather they started testing all of this in Patient Transport Services, where patterns are much more predictable, than in emergency care.’

Waiting time for stroke and heart attack patients was 36 minutes in 2022-2023 (File Image)

Standard ambulances cover 800 miles a day and can refill quickly at petrol stations (File Image)

Standard ambulances cover 800 miles a day and can refill quickly at petrol stations (File Image)

It comes as waiting times for ambulances remain high.

Between March 2022 and March 2023, heart attack and stroke victims had average wait times of 36 minutes, double the target. 

In 2022, over 500 seriously ill people died waiting for ambulances. 

There are also concerns the new ambulances will cost the already overstretched NHS £150,000 each.

A whistleblower said: ‘Every part of the NHS is under-resourced and waiting lists remain historically high, but commitment to green zealotry remains unchanged.

‘The amount of resources dedicated to the green agenda is astounding, and the fact that it is now impacting clinical decision-making is, I believe, grossly unethical.’

The NHS is set to spend £3 million a year on a new team of 48 staff to make the service more environmentally friendly. 

Other NHS initiatives include using climate-friendly pain relief for women in labour and using e-bikes to deliver chemotherapy.

Paul Bristow, a Tory member of the Commons health and social care committee, said: ‘Saving lives and patient safety must always come first. The idea that anyone can consider that climate concerns and green zealotry should come before what is best for patients boggles the mind.

‘If concerns of first responders and ambulance crews are being overridden it just shows that eco group-think in our NHS is a very real concern.’

Mark Francois, a Conservative member of the public accounts committee urged the NHS not to forget its true purpose.

He said: ‘Florence Nightingale once famously said that “the very first requirement in a hospital is that it should do the sick no harm.” While achieving net zero is a laudable aim, we cannot allow it to trump common sense, especially if it compromises patient safety.

‘The most important consideration must be patient safety, comfort and wellbeing.’

An NHS spokesman said: ‘NHS services must always put patients first when procuring products and it is also right we seek green alternatives, but only when they save the taxpayer money.

‘The new electric ambulances are benefiting thousands of patients, hospitals report they are working efficiently, and they could help deliver annual operational savings of £59 million.’

The NHS was the first national health body to commit to net zero and aims to achieve it by 2040. 

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