Hospitals, clinics, GP practices and other facilities throughout Wales are now receiving deliveries of vital pathology, medicines, blood, organs, medical records and equipment, as well as other more-routine essential materials, from a new fleet of 30 Mercedes-Benz vans.
The vehicles have been procured by NHS Wales Health Courier Services (HCS), the specialist transport department that provides the wheels for the country’s health services.
HCS is a division of NHS Wales Shared Services Partnership (NWSSP), which provides a comprehensive range of support functions and services for all of NHS Wales.
NWSSP was founded in 2011 to support NHS Wales in the improvement of patient care by reducing bureaucracy, removing artificial internal boundaries, and channelling more money into frontline services through greater efficiency.
Supplied by South Wales dealer, Euro Commercials; most of the new vans are Long-bodied Vito 114 BlueTECs, of which three are fitted with blue lights for emergency assignments.
This model is powered by an advanced 2.1-litre diesel engine, which offers economy of up to 44.1 mpg in the combined cycle.
The line-up also includes three small Citan 109 CDIs, two of which also have blue lights, and eight larger Sprinter 314 CDIs – a pair of vans and six box-bodied chassis cabs with tail-lifts.
Underlining NWSSP’s commitment to securing best value, the Sprinters were all pre-owned and acquired through the Mercedes-Benz ‘Approved Used’ programme.
Tony Chatfield, NWSSP’s head of operations for the Health Courier Service, said: “We deliver and collect up to 120,000 items of mail and medical records each week, as well as annually transporting in excess of eight million samples of clinical pathology and blood, or blood and pharmaceutical products, in accordance with Transport of Dangerous Goods Regulations, and providing emergency transport based on clinical need.
“Ours is a 24-hours-a-day, 365-days-a-year operation and, between them, our vans and large goods vehicles in supply chain and laundry cover well in excess of two-and-a-half million miles per year.
“Given the vital nature of much of our work, and the need to support front-line services, we simply cannot afford unplanned vehicle downtime.”
The ‘blue light’ response service which NWSSP provides on behalf of the Welsh Ambulance Service NHS Trust covers emergency blood bank and pathology requests, and specialist clinical logistics that do not require the attendance of a clinician. This frees up 999 ambulances for patient-facing accident and emergency duties.
The van fleet has additionally been fitted for the first time with removable Euroengel compressor refrigeration containers supplied by German specialist, Eberspacher; and its Swindon-based partner, DBS.
As a result, NWSSP is able to provide a fully-compliant, temperature-controlled environment for clinical pathology and pharmacy consignments without having to commission costly full-vehicle conversions.
“These robust boxes allow us to maintain and report on the temperature environment of items from the point of collection at a primary or acute centre location to delivery at a pathology laboratory,” said Chatfield.
“Wales will be the first country in the world to provide this level of service on a national basis.”