Ambulance HARTs use managed services to make budgets go further

With Health Authorities searching ever harder to identify operational savings to minimise the impact of rising costs on front line services, the need to make assets last longer and reduce waste have become key priorities in driving up efficiencies within the NHS.

Ambulance Services across the UK have completed the process of setting up Hazardous Area Response Teams (HARTs) to provide specially trained and equipped ambulance medics to work alongside the other emergency services at incidents involving access to the ‘inner cordon’. These teams, of which there will be 15 in England, and similar groups in Northern Ireland and Scotland, are being issued with special technical rescue protective garments designed and made by Bristol Uniforms.

The now familiar green HART garments, which are flame retardant and rain, oil and blood borne pathogen resistant, use a combination of high performance technical fabrics to provide the level of wearer protection required to conform to Department of Health guidelines. The specialist HART teams, working as first responders alongside the fire and rescue services and police, are able to access areas where ambulance crews would not normally have access, and are specially trained to face hazards such as fires and chemical or fuel spillages which are commonly encountered at road traffic accidents, industrial and commercial premises fires and many types of vehicle collisions.

The HARTs typically have around 42 members. Each regional ambulance service has at least one team but North West and London have 2 each. Over 1,100 sets of the distinctive dark green coat and trouser combination will have been delivered and deployed by the time all 16 teams, including one in Northern Ireland, are operational.

HART is a Department of Health initiative that began over 4 years ago and was piloted in both London and Yorkshire who tested two elements of the HART capability – USAR (Urban Search & Rescue) and IRU (Incident Response Unit). Bristol became an Approved Supplier to the Department of Health in 2010 paving the way for the Incident Ground Kit to be fully deployed within HART. The design adopted nationally is based closely on the pioneering PPE originally designed for the Scottish Ambulance Service SORTs (Special Operations Response Teams) and first deployed in 2008.

To maximise their longevity and protective qualities, these garments require regular inspection, cleaning and repair. Specialist managed services, which provide a comprehensive maintenance programme for technical garments, have been available from PPE manufacturers for over 10 years for firefighter garments and this same service is now being widely adopted for HART PPE.

Bristol’s managed services offer a flexible and easy access solution to ambulance services seeking to reduce their long term procurement costs and ensure wearer safety as required by the PPE at Work Regulations 1992. It is accredited to BS EN ISO 9001:2000. This 7 day turn round collect and deliver service is supported by a comprehensive online management information and access programme. Operated within a secure environment, access to current and past data at individual garment level, or in aggregate form, allows procurement and operational managers to track assets 24/7. Knowing what garments are being serviced, their location, service history and current condition affords efficient stock management and aids replacement planning, saving both time and money.

Since deployment began in 2008, 9 of the 15 teams, which will eventually be operational across England later in 2011, are now relying on Bristol’s managed services to ensure that in both procurement and maintenance terms each obtains best value and fully meets its health and safety obligations to its technical rescue teams.

James Price, HART Manager for West Midlands Ambulance Service and Chair of the National Operations Group for HART, commented, “ When we need to equip HART with a hard wearing and effective uniform for our wide range of skills we looked no further than Bristol. We are very closely linked with SORT in Scotland and their experience helped point the way. Bristol offers us a full service including collection and asset tracking which made the decision to use them very easy.”

Richard Cranham, Bristol’s Business Development Executive, who has played a central role in the roll out of the new technical garments added, “We are pleased to have been able to develop a garment that has met with the full approval of all the country’s ambulance services and to see the kit being deployed from the Scottish border to the tip of Cornwall. However, the business has been won against stiff competition from amongst our major international competitors and we take special pride in knowing that it has been a combination of the innovative characteristics, and quality of protection being offered, that have been the key deal breakers in securing a clean sweep. We also had to demonstrate our ability to produce the clothing to meet the individual deployment timescales of each HART to enable all the teams to meet their planned go-live dates”.


Published in Ambulance Today - pdf 2

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