There are many problems with the design of existing ambulances that impact negatively on patients and frontline ambulance clinicians alike. Some of the most pressing issues concern the treatment space in the back of the emergency ambulance. This environment is difficult to keep clean, given the frequency of use, and the resultant lack of opportunity to scrub the vehicle down can lead to hygiene and infection control problems. Ambulance crews also suffer from poorly thought-out ergonomics, badly laid out equipment and difficult-to-access storage spaces, all of which can affect performance in critical, life-threatening situations.
To date there has been no standardisation of ambulance specifications across the EU-zone, and this has created logistical and managerial problems for ambulance deliverers. Consequently a patient in need
of emergency treatment will invariably have a different ambulance experience depending on where they are geographically based in Europe. All these problems combine to compromise patient safety
and make the ambulance treatment experience more intimidating.
The Smart Ambulance European Procurers Platform (SAEPP) Project builds on the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design’s involvement in the Smart Pods research study completed in 2009, which proposed a
new system of mobile healthcare to treat patients in the community as well as in hospitals. It is estimated that in the UK alone by providing appropriate on-the-spot treatment, up to 40 per cent of patient journeys to hospital could be avoided, resulting in a significant reduction in operational costs for the NHS and a significant increase in quality of the overall patient experience.
The Smart Ambulance European Procurers Platform (SAEPP) project
is comprised of a group of European ambulance services, academic healthcare research bodies, hospitals and other healthcare organisations who have formed a consortium with the objective of designing and building a 21st century prototype emergency ambulance vehicle which will allow frontline clinicians to provide more high-level patient care on-scene and thus help reduce the number of unnecessary hospital transports currently made by ambulance services across the Euro-Zone.
Within the SAEPP project each consortium member organisation is represented by one or more individuals with specialist expertise in areas such as ambulance vehicle manufacture, frontline emergency healthcare, project management or public healthcare innovation.
It is our goal to work together as a pan-European team to create a mobile treatment unit, not only capable of combined patient transport and treatment, but which will also create a patient treatment area which will maximise space, minimise the risk of infection, reduce hospital admissions and handover times, decrease overall costs and, most importantly, offer an overall safer environment for patients and
Led by the UK’s Royal College of Art’s Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design, based at Kensington Gore, London as Design Lead and by NHS Commercial Solutions, as procurement lead, our consortium recently received a positive response to a funding bid we made to the EU “Personalising Health and Care” work programme, part of the
Horizon 2020 programme.
Our submission, made under 1CT-35f Technical Annex as part of the European Procurers Platform (EPP, outlined how the work of the HHCD could be taken forward and turned into a representative and fully-operational prototype ambulance vehicle to explore and demonstrate the enhanced role that ambulances can potentially play in delivering improved healthcare to the community.
The EC describes this type of programme as ‘Research In Action’ (RIA).