Headline

Tackling emergency response times and climate change with NHS electric ambulances (NHS England)

William Coni
September 28, 2022
Summary

Electric-powered emergency service vehicles are beginning to be introduced onto North Western roads in the UK under the NHS’ plan to hit net zero carbon emissions by 2040. This exciting new proposition, costing £2.1 million, aims to both decrease the NHS carbon footprint and increase the efficiency of urgent health serviElectric-powered emergency service vehicles are beginning to be introduced onto North Western roads in the UK under the NHS’ plan to hit net zero carbon emissions by 2040. This exciting new proposition, costing £2.1 million, aims to both decrease the NHS carbon footprint and increase the efficiency of urgent health services in the community. Eight ambulance trusts in the North West are starting to trial twenty-one vehicles in the community, six of which are committed to emergency mental health response. Electric vehicles are more cost-effective, allowing more time on the road treating those in need resulting in an economic and environmental gain.ces in the community. Eight ambulance trusts in the North West are starting to trial twenty-one vehicles in the community, six of which are committed to emergency mental health response. Electric vehicles are more cost-effective, allowing more time on the road treating those in need resulting in an economic and environmental gain.

Food for Thought

‍Dividing the emergency response with a plan in mind

‍With regards to emergency mental health ambulances, a more specified service will build on the notion of emergency mental health first aid training already in place. These vehicles would be able to reduce emergency response times and pressure on the current double-crewed ambulances. The vehicles providing this more specialised service would be adapted: having less fluorescent lights, producing less noise (due to being electric) and having a less clinical interior. The lattermost aims to reduce patient anxiety created by the urgent feeling in a traditional ambulance. Some of these electric vehicles will also be modified so they are better equipped with services for critically ill patients being transferred between high-dependency care locations. Dividing the ambulance service this way will hopefully create more efficient and direct routes when transporting patients and provide them with more appropriate and immediate care.

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The wider impact

‍Tackling climate change is a huge task, however, this initiative is one step towards a greener future in the NHS. The cost of air pollution to society exceeds £20 billion per year and is thought to be associated with approximately 64,000 deaths; the use of emergency vehicles is a significant contributor to this. By switching to electrically powered emergency vehicles and increasing the efficacy of these services, we will start to see wider impacts such as a reduction in localised air pollution-related health issues as well as the longer-term impacts of reducing greenhouse gas emissions on global health. Prevention of disease will always be the optimal choice over facing systematic issues created by the increased incidence of disease.

Practice Interview QUestions
  1. Do you think the 2040 target of net zero carbon emissions is realistic, if not, why?
  2. Why do you think emergency and long-term mental illness is increasingly becoming one of the biggest struggles facing the national health service?
  3. What are potential ethical implications of a ‘greener NHS’ if carbon emissions take priority over service efficiency?

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