Stakeholders and users at the unveiling of our new vehicles

NEAS vehicles re-designed to help patients

A major re-design of new vehicles at the North East Ambulance Service has been unveiled.

In all, 44 ambulances and 43 Patient Transport Service vehicles have been adapted to make them more accessible to disabled people, including people with sight and hearing impairments and people living with dementia.  NEAS is the first ambulance service in the country to completely re-design some of their vehicles to meet the needs of all of these patients.

Among the changes are a new look interior, an improved colour scheme, flooring, seat colours, better signs and handrails.  The colour contrast between the walls, floor and cabinets has also been changed to improve access for patients.

The work follows an extensive consultation exercise with stakeholder and patient representative groups.  The vehicles have been approved by the Alzheimer’s Society as dementia friendly vehicles and the outside of the vehicles will display a sign indicating the new vehicles are dementia friendly spaces.

Some patients currently have difficulty seeing handrails and steps, while others have problems seeing or understanding signs in vehicles.  Changes to the colour scheme and signage have been made at no cost to the Trust.

NEAS chief executive Helen Ray said:  “Being in an ambulance can be a very traumatic experience - even more so for patients who have specific needs.

“What might appear to be small adaptations, such as changing signs and the colour of handrails, can make a big difference to disabled patients.  These changes will mean that they can access our vehicles more easily and help people to live more independently. This will help to reduce the stress and anxiety they can feel.

"I’d like to thank all the people and groups who have helped us re-design these vehicles. Their contribution has been invaluable.”

Tom Howlett of vehicle manufacturer WAS which carried out the ambulance conversion, said:  “It’s been a very rewarding project to work on knowing that it will have a positive impact on patient experience.  It’s easy to forget the difficulties that some patients can face when they are in an ambulance or PTS vehicle.  We hope the adaptations can make a real difference for them.”

Andrew Ball of the Alzheimer’s Society said:  “More and more people are living with dementia – in their own homes but out of the community.  We need to make the journey in an ambulance as comfortable as possible for them and for ambulance staff to understand the needs of people living with dementia.  NEAS has been brilliant at listening to the experts and the views of people with impairments.  It’s been really welcome that the changes have been for everybody, including those with disabilities.”

Julie Walker, of Willowdene Care Home, said:  “I am really impressed with the changes.  What they have done is more than we asked for.  They have really taken on board the suggestions of how to help people who have dementia.  All of the changes will make the lives of people who have to use an ambulance hugely better.”

And Darren Taylor, managing director of Empowerment Consultancy and Training in Birtley added:  “It was important that service users were involved throughout the process, not just at the end.  I think the changes will make a big difference and people will appreciate them because they’ve been consulted.”

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