NHS Wales health courier services (HCS) recognised early on that its own fleet was likely to be stretched by the additional workload and that it would need additional vehicles. It was grateful, therefore, when Euro Commercials responded by providing three of its demonstrators on an indefinite loan basis.
Meanwhile, key workers at the dealer’s dedicated fleet van facility in Swansea are maintaining and repairing ambulances and other front-line NHS fleet vehicles.
Euro Commercials opened its fleet van workshop 18 months ago, to relieve pressure on its main branch nearby (it also has branches in Newport and Cardiff). Working late into the night, and on Saturday mornings, the team looks after more than 200 emergency ambulances, and provides collection and delivery support for NHS Wales supply chain logistics & transport, and Welsh ambulance services NHS Trust stations across south and west Wales.
HCS is a division of NHS Wales shared services partnership (NWSSP) supply chain logistics & transport, which provides a comprehensive range of support functions and services for all of NHS Wales. A long-established customer of Euro Commercials, it runs a fleet of 120 vans and trucks.
These vehicles deliver clinical logistics services such as vital pathology, medicines, blood, organs, medical records and equipment, as well as other planned and urgent medical consumables, to hospitals, clinics, GP practices and other facilities throughout Wales.
“Ours is a 24 hours a day, 365 days a year operation,” said Gildas Griffiths, deputy head of supply chain, clinical logistics & transport, at HCS. “In normal times 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, and providing emergency transport based on clinical need.
“These are not normal times, though, and the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a massive increase in demand for our services, which colleagues have been working tirelessly to meet. We identified a need for additional vehicles to supplement our established fleet, so were delighted when Euro Commercials agreed to lend us three of its demonstrators. It was a most welcome gesture, and one that is greatly appreciated.”
He added: “We also value Euro Commercials’ reassuring maintenance support, particularly its ability to provide rapid vehicle turnarounds at a time where we need optimum fleet availability.”
As well as providing HCS with the three demonstrators – two Sprinter panel vans and a Vito crew van model with second row of seats – Euro Commercials has loaned a couple of Sprinter vans to the Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust.
Lyn Williams, group key account manager with responsibility for the emergency services, said the dealer welcomed the opportunity to provide support. Williams also manages the dealer’s fleet van workshop in Swansea. The four-bay facility is staffed by a team of seven experienced technicians and three collection and delivery drivers, and all vehicles are washed and valeted before being returned for operational use.
“We always prioritise front-line emergency vehicles, but even more so at the moment,” Williams added. “I’m fortunate to be leading a great team who are very conscious of the need to ensure that ambulances operate at peak safety and efficiency, and are back on the road as quickly as possible. The fact that by so doing we’re able to make our own contribution to the battle against Coronavirus is a source of great pride to all of us.”
Euro Commercials is currently processing an order from the Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust for a further 70 front-line units based on 5.0-tonne Mercedes-Benz Sprinter chassis with automatic gearboxes. These vehicles are being fitted with box bodies by German specialist WAS. Most will replace older models which are being stood down, although a proportion represents an extension to the fleet.