NHS boss vows to slash ambulance use to cut pollution

The new head of the London NHS has vowed to crack down on “gas-guzzling” ambulances under a plan to reduce the number of people being driven to outpatient appointments.

Sir David Sloman said patients being ferried to hospital by car or ambulance for non-emergency care accounted for one in 20 road journeys in the UK.

He told a conference of London GPs he wanted to cut the 22.7 million outpatient appointments in London by 30 per cent in 10 years by using online and video consultations.

This would be done alongside efforts to reduce toxic emissions, with NHS ambulances “moving away from diesel over the course of the next two years”.

The London Ambulance Service, Met police and London Fire Brigade have been given an exemption until October 2021 from complying with Mayor Sadiq Khan’s ultra low emission zone, which launches in central London on April 8.

LAS ambulances are used for emergency calls, with private ambulance firms contracted to transport patients to appointments. The service has about 450 ambulances. It received 140 new vehicles in 2017-18 which meet the Mayor’s new pollution targets and will be used in the Ulez. LAS has also begun using electric cars but electric ambulances remain some years away.

Sir David set out a vision for making London the “healthiest global city in the world” and the “best city to receive healthcare if you are unwell”.

He was on a recent trip to Bangkok when schools closed because the air quality was bad. “We are not there,” he said. “But we are not in the right place.”

His goal is to increase how long people live free from physical or mental health disability and to reduce health inequalities, he told the Londonwide LMCs conference yesterday.  

Sir David told the Standard afterwards: “To be fair to London Ambulance Service, they have a plan for how they’re going to move to eco-friendly ambulances. The reality is that there is a lot of traffic on London’s roads taking people to access their healthcare. 

“We need to think how we can address that, and pollution and air quality, and make it easier for people to access healthcare.”


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