A NEW ambulance which has been purposely built to take terminally-ill patients home or to hospice on their final journey, will be put into service by NHS Lothian today.
The vehicle – which is being funded thanks to a £75,000 grant from the Edinburgh and Lothians Health Foundation – will provide a dedicated resource for palliative patients that is more responsive to patients’ unique needs.
Health chiefs said the ambulance would be reserved for its purpose as many people’s final journeys need to be made at very short notice.
Jim Crombie, chief officer of acute services at NHS Lothian said: “I’d like to say a big thank you to the Foundation for providing this essential vehicle which will help make a difficult journey as comfortable as possible for both the patient and their relatives.
“Often a patient’s final journey to hospice, or back to their own home, has to be made at short notice and within a quick time frame, which can be difficult to achieve.
“This new ambulance will be exclusively reserved for these journeys, making transport available as soon as required.”
Shulah Allan, vice-chair of the Edinburgh and Lothians Health Foundation, said the ambulance would be appreciated by patients and their families.
She said: “We know that two out of three people would prefer to die at home, surrounded by those they love, and yet all too often people are not able to spend their last days in a place of their choosing.
“Sometimes that can be down to something as simple as the availability of suitable transport.
“The Edinburgh and Lothians Health Foundation is committed to enhancing the care and wellbeing of the people of Lothians.
“I am delighted that by funding the Palliative Care Ambulance, the Foundation can play its part by making that journey a little easier for not only the patient, but for their loved ones too.”
The vehicle, which went into full operation today, will be staffed by the Scottish Ambulance Service.
Paul Bassett, general manager south east at the Scottish Ambulance Service, said: “Our vehicle specialists worked closely with the team at NHS Lothian to create a specially designed ambulance that is sensitive to the needs of patients and will improve the quality of their care.”
NHS Lothian’s three main hospitals – the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, the Western General Hospital and St John’s Hospital in Livingston – all have dedicated palliative care teams.