WALES’ struggling ambulance service is to receive almost £4 million of Welsh Government funding for a major upgrade of its vehicle fleet.

Forty-one new vehicles - 14 emergency ambulances, 15 large patient care service vehicles, four small patient care service vehicles, two health courier service vehicles, and six specialist vehicles - will cost £3.8 million and replace part of the existing fleet.

The ambulance service currently has 736 vehicles covering an area of more than 8,000 square miles in Wales.

The new ones will ensure patients are treated in the best clinical environments possible using the latest equipment, and will reduce overall operating costs for the Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust (WAST), as they will be more fuel efficient.

The latest ambulance service performance figures reveal the demands placed on the service with 35,570 emergency calls during June 2014. They also show that immediately life-threatening incidents, which require an emergency ambulance response, have increased by 30 per cent over the last five years.

Response times targets, particularly for category A emergency calls, continue to be missed across much of Wales, including Gwent.

Health minister Mark Drakeford said the service faces significant demands and the investment is intended to make sure that modern, reliable vehicles are available to respond to sick and injured patients.

“This new funding will help provide high-quality clinical services, improve the comfort and care to patients and offer a much better working environment for ambulance service staff,” he said.

Heather Ransom, head of resources for WAST, said: “Regularly replacing ageing vehicles ensures our fleet remains modern, reliable and fit for purpose. The investment will allow us to continue to improve the quality of our services for the people of Wales and enhance patient care.”