The independent ambulance industry is at least 40 years old – one of the first private companies, Inter County Ambulance Service, was started to serve GP’s, NHS and private hospitals, as well as insurance companies and private individuals in and around the London area.
The first civilian, hospital-based medical helicopter programme in the United States began operation with a single helicopter, based at St. Anthony Central Hospital in Denver, Colorado.
Heathrow Air Ambulance Service was formed.
London’s Air Ambulance, also known as London HEMS (Helicopter Emergency Medical Service), formed as the first air ambulance in the UK to carry a doctor trained in emergency medicine in addition to a paramedic at all times. Based at the London Hospital, Whitechapel.
The Care Quality Commission introduced regulations to register and monitor the independent ambulance industry.
The modern ambulance is now largely custom built to carry patients with specialist needs. For example, bariatric ambulances (shown here) are equipped with extra wide stretchers for patient comfort and dignity and winches to cut down the amount of manual handling a crew has to undertake.
For seriously ill patients, ambulances can be fitted with complete life support, ventilation and monitoring equipment as well as a baby pod incubator for transporting neonates and children less than 10 kg.
The Independent Ambulance Association was born to represent the regulated private ambulance industry.
Increasing paramedic skills, combined with equipment technology, will continue to drive ambulance change throughout the 21st century. A long term project is underway at the Helen Hamlyn Design Centre in London to redesign the entire system of mobile health care in the UK. The aim is to reduce pressure on hospitals and paramedics, improve safety and dignity of patients as well as reassess issues of hygiene, maintenance, and stock management.