A FLEET of new 4x4 ambulances is set to hit the region’s roads after West Midlands Ambulance Service (WMAS) took delivery of 16 of the specially designed emergency vehicles.

The ambulance trust is continuing with a "significant" investment in vehicle replacements and the new 4x4 Mercedes ambulances will give the trust more capability to get to patients in difficult weather and muddy off-road conditions.

WMAS currently has more than 300 ambulances and 200 rapid response vehicles. It is planned that one of the 4x4 vehicles will be based at each ambulance hub around the region, able to be used the same as an everyday ambulance.

Craig Cooke, WMAS support services director, said: “The new vehicles will mean that, for the first time, we will have a full-size ambulance with 4x4 capabilities.

"This investment in new vehicles will help us provide high-quality clinical services to people who suffer serious injuries or medical conditions when they are out and about on uneven and difficult to access terrain. This should improve the comfort and care to patients and offer a much better working environment for our staff."

Assistant area manager, Nigel Wells, said: “The new Mercedes 4x4 sprinter has been developed with staff and Mercedes to ensure they meet all the requirements of both the patient and the staff.

"The fully automatic 4x4 system is very simple to use and will give staff greater access to patients in challenging conditions. They will come into their own during the winter months and will add an extra dimension to the ambulance service when responding to emergency calls.

“A number of ambulance staff recently attended the Prodrive test facilities in Warwickshire, along with Mercedes training staff to use the vehicles off road. WMAS driver trainers also attended and will be passing on their knowledge to all frontline staff, who will all be trained to use the vehicles over the coming months.”

The cost of one of the new 4x4 ambulances is £140,000 compared to £100,000 for a normal new two-wheel drive ambulance.”