The delivery of more than 100 new ambulances to the NHS could be delayed ahead of winter after the company paid to supply them went into administration, HSJ has learned.
VCS, one of the major suppliers to the NHS of vans converted into ambulances, is part of the WN Vtech Group, which was placed in administration yesterday (Monday). A notice on the company’s website gives details of the administrators and an email address for creditors to contact, but the group would not comment further.
The companies are reported to have unsuccessfully sought buyers for an emergency sale.
Several ambulance trusts have vehicles on order from the firm, including 88 at South Western Ambulance Service FT, which has had huge performance problems for the past two years.
West Midlands Ambulance Services University Foundation Trust said it was due an unspecified number of vehicles from VCS this year “but that work will now be completed elsewhere. We believe that our vehicle replacement programme will only be delayed by a couple of months.” It said it had not paid upfront for the work.
East of England Ambulance Service Trust – which also said it had not made any payments upfront – has five on order from VCS, while London Ambulance Service Trust is thought to have around 10 on order.
SCAS has orders for 125 ambulances which are expected to be delivered by April, but declined to say if any were from VCS.
Ordering 800 new ambulances, some of which were to replace vehicles coming out of service, was a big part of government recovery plans for this winter, and some of them now appear to be at risk.
South Western, in particular, has some 12-year-old ambulances which have covered 400,000 miles. However, the trust said it had teams working seven days a week to maintain the fleet and had increased the numbers of hours ambulances were on the road to 50,000 a week from 37,000 in 2020. Some other trusts – such as WMAS – have much younger fleets.
It is unclear whether ambulance trusts stand to lose substantial money because of the company going into administration.
An NHSE spokesperson said: “The NHS has increased the number of ambulances in use with plans to put even more on the road over winter, and as ever we will work with ambulance services and suppliers to put mitigations in place, where necessary.”
Date: 22 November