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History of the Ambulance

If someone is having a medical emergency, we wouldn’t think twice about whipping out our phones and dialling 999. But we are lucky; the slick service we’re used to today hasn’t always been around. Today we take a look at the history of the ambulance service.

Born in the war

It was during the First World War in 1914 that the first ever motorised ambulances were used. Unlike the ambulances we know of today, they were not equipped to treat the wounded; they were simply used as a method of transportation. This was organised via the British Red Cross, who were able to use volunteers and their vehicles from the Royal Automobile Club. Later that year The Times issued an appeal for funds and, as a result, over the next month the Red Cross was able to buy 512 ambulances.

Home ambulances

A couple of years later in 1919 the Joint War Committee thought it might be a good idea to offer a similar service at home. A home service ambulance committee was created and with 500 ambulances they were able to help sick people all over the UK.

Going mainstream

The UK ambulance service that we know today started in 1946, after the Second World War. It was brought forth by the National Health Services act, which came into power in the summer of 1948. It started off as a volunteer led service; however when government recommendations meant treating patients on the way to hospital, not simply transporting them, the first ambulance service staff were brought on board. 

The recommendations came from the Millar report and so the newly trained ambulance staff were referred to as “Millar trained”. Training was very basic by today’s standards; simple first aid with a few extras.  The vehicles, too, were very basic. They contained: stretchers, blankets, a carry chair, wooden splints, burns dressing, a maternity pack and a first aid satchel.

Stepping it up a gear

In the early 70s the ambulance services were transferred to the individual NHS area it serviced. This was the start of a localised serviced, where training and equipment varied from one location to another. This is still the case today, as the ambulance service takes into account local aspects such as conditions and infrastructure. For example, four-wheel drive, all-terrain vehicles and even helicopters are used in rural areas.

Today there are usually two manufacturers involved in building an ambulance. The first is a van manufacturer who creates the standard shell of the vehicle, and then the second turns this into an actual recognisable ambulance. This involves adding bodywork, emergency equipment and interior fittings. This can be done in one of two ways: inserting a pre-build box or adding in the modifications from scratch and custom built into the vehicle. The technology available has advanced significantly and includes:

  • Radio: Allows ambulance crew to pass back vital information to the hospital
  • CCTV: Used to protect ambulance crews against violence
  • Tail lift and ramps: Mean crew do not have to lift e.g. in the case of an obese patient or speciality care transports
  • Trauma lighting: Often blue or red which can be used on patients who have become photosensitive

The ambulance service has come a long way have in a relatively short period time. As healthcare needs continue to develop and increase, the demand for their service is as high as ever. 


published: 23/10/2015 09:14:59

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