Trials of the first ambulances in the region adapted to improve the conveyance of patients with guide dogs will be unveiled by the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust (EEAST).
An event held at EEAST’s Cambourne headquarters on Friday, December 20 will showcase a new ambulance which helps ensure that it meets the needs of guide dogs and their owners.
Paul Henry, associate director of operations support said: “This was a wonderful opportunity to work directly with patients to listen to what matters most to them and to make meaningful changes to our ambulances based upon patient feedback.
“From the advice received we have changed colours and contrast within the ambulance and most importantly, introduced a means by which assistance dogs can stay with their owner in view of their vital relationship with patients who are blind or partially sighted.
“We have worked with the ambulance converter Wietmarscher Ambulances and Security Vehicles (WAS Group) to provide adaptions to the ambulance to enable the dogs to assist deaf, blind and partially sighted people while they are conveyed to hospital with their owner.
“Changes have been developed by a small group of patients and ambulance staff and will be introduced into the new vehicles due to come into service within 2014.”
Helen Sismore from The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association said: “To have an opportunity to work with EEAST means the two organisations can build a lasting association which really helps to break down barriers and improve patient journeys, making it less stressful for them and the guide dog.
“It demonstrates that through listening to patient ideas ambulance trusts can provide innovative solutions.”
Guide dog owner Cynthia Easeman, who was involved in helping EEAST with the re-design, said:
“As a blind person, if you need to be in an ambulance you are totally unaware of where you are, why you are there and feel very much isolated and alone.
“Then to have your dog taken from you is like saying to someone else, ‘I will just take your eyes away’.
“Can you imagine being unconscious and not even knowing if your dog was being cared for or coming with you and coming round not knowing where you were or where your dog is?
“Now we don’t have to worry, we know our dogs will be in the new ambulances with us, tethered for their safety and that of the patient and crew.
“Our dogs are much more than just guides to us, they are our eyes, our friends and companions who give us confidence to go out into the world as normal sighted people do.”