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Friday, 18 April 2014

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Fires in Cumbrian ambulances lead to safety work on north west fleet

Ambulance bosses have been forced to order emergency safety works to their fleet after three of their vehicles caught fire.

The Mercedes 515 models used by the North West Ambulance Service NHS Trust will not be withdrawn from service but will all be fitted with “under-bonnet fire suppression systems”.

Among those affected was a 23-year-old Maryport woman who was in labour last month when the ambulance taking her to hospital caught fire at Northside, Workington.

The organisation confirmed that it has now carried out a programme of works on the model together with the supplier Mercedes-Benz.

Alan Stuttard, director of finance for the North West Ambulance Service said: “We have experienced problems where three ambulance vehicles in the Cumbria area suffered engine failures which resulted in fire damage.

“The trust is committed to ensuring the health and safety of all its staff and patients and therefore following these incidents, the trust, in partnership with the vehicle supplier Mercedes-Benz, undertook a programme of work on the 103 vehicles of the Mercedes 515 model across the region.

“Following further discussions between the trust and Mercedes-Benz, further work will be undertaken to ensure that the vehicles remain fully operational and will continue to operate as part of the current fleet.

“In addition to this, the trust has made the decision to purchase and fit under-bonnet fire suppression systems to all Mercedes 515 type vehicles. These systems will activate automatically and will extinguish an under-bonnet fire should the need arise.”

According to a frontline ambulance service employee who did not wish to be identified, cost was the main reason why the vehicles were not withdrawn and immediately replaced.

Speaking to the News & Star she said: “We have been told that there are still 13 on the road [in north Cumbria] and that they can’t afford to replace them and to be patient.”

But a spokeswoman from the ambulance service said: “With regards to costs, it is not as simple as it seems just to replace ambulances.

“Until the exact cause is determined we could not just withdraw 103 fleet vehicles as we wouldn’t be able to replace them immediately and the delivery of the service would be severely affected.”

Kellie Lamb, 23, of Buttermere Road in Maryport, had been in labour inside an ambulance when it caught fire on September 18.

She was switched to a nearby bus to await a replacement ambulance and was then switched to a police car before another ambulance arrived.

She later gave birth in hospital to a boy, Devlin, weighing 7lb 11oz.

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