New fleet of ambulances are 'too tall'

PARAMEDICS in Suffolk have been ordered to avoid low bridges over fears new ambulances are too tall.

Rebecca Lefort

PARAMEDICS in Suffolk have been ordered to avoid low bridges over fears new ambulances are too tall.

Aerials on vehicles have been damaged by colliding with low bridges throughout the East of England Ambulance Trust's region.

And there are fears the problem will be exacerbated when a fleet of new, larger, vehicles comes on the roads in March.

As a result ambulance bosses have issued a decree to paramedics warning them to avoid travelling on routes which travel under low bridges.

That includes bridges such as the low railway bridge by Needham Market lake, which means ambulances must travel via back routes to the town rather than come off at the A140 junction of the A14.

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The news comes as it emerged that the ambulance trust was still failing to hit targets for reaching dying people quickly enough.

The trust is supposed to reach 75% of all life-threatening calls within eight minutes but managed to get to just 69% of them in time in December.

A spokeswoman for the ambulance service said: “A trust-wide policy was introduced in December, barring vehicles from going under low or height restricted bridges to avoid damage to vital radio antennae.

“This has been a regular occurrence and as well as having vehicles off the road during repairs, there is also an avoidable cost involved.

“The issue about the height of the 100 plus new vehicles that will be joining the fleet over the next two years is something of a red herring, in as much as they are only slightly taller than the ones currently in use in some counties but lower than vehicles currently in use in Essex.”

Currently ambulances on the roads in Suffolk are 2.75metre high, and the new ones will be 2.8metre. The new vehicles also have new interiors which allow paramedics to stand upright in the back, which they can not currently do.

One paramedic said ambulances had always been told to avoid low bridges because of damage to vehicles, and added that fire engines and some police vehicles could also not use the routes.

He said: “A couple of people drove under low bridges and damaged aerials and it took the vehicles out of action. I suppose if they have an official policy then if staff go under the bridges they can be held accountable.”