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Medical bag goes into car

Those in need of urgent medical assistance in Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Hampshire may well find that it is a Dacia Duster coming to their aid after SCAS took delivery of 40 for use by its Community First Responders.

Funded by South Central Ambulance Charity (SCAC), which supports SCAS by providing services, projects and equipment that are not supplied by Government NHS funding, the new Dusters are manned by specially-trained volunteers who provide a rapid response to many 999 calls where an ambulance is requested. Due to the volunteers’ locality, they can often arrive quicker than an ambulance and administer potentially life-saving pre-hospital treatment. There is no NHS funding available for the CFR programme, so all their equipment, vehicles and uniform are funded through public donations to the Charity.

It’s not the first time that we have turned to the Dacia Duster for support. The order follows a successful partnership between the Trust and the UK’s most affordable car brand where a 4×4 version of the award-winning SUV was supplied in 2016 for use by Windsor Community First Responders. Although scheduled for a one-year period, so successful and essential was the loan that the Duster served as a Dynamic Response Vehicle (DRV) until 2019, helping 100s of residents throughout Berkshire with urgent medical assistance.

New CFR car side view

The new Dusters replace several ageing vehicles, which are now requiring significant attention to deliver a level of reliability that the role of a DRV demands.

Coupled with unrivalled value for money, the versatility and reliability of the Trust’s original Duster were key influences in SCAC’s decision to invest in a new Dacia fleet. The order consisted of 27 4×2 Comfort versions and 13 4×4 Prestige variants, the latter being deployed in more remote and rural areas where the all-wheel drive allows crews to reach patients in hard to reach areas as well as those that have been taken ill in the street, at home or at their work place. All are powered by a turbocharged 1.5-litre TCe petrol engine, which is paired to an efficiency-enhancing six-speed manual gearbox.

The fully-liveried Dusters have been kitted out to the Trust’s exact specifications. The bespoke conversion includes additional lighting and storage solutions for such essentials as a defibrillator, oxygen, masks, bandages, Entonox and other medical supplies.

On choosing the Dacia Duster, Vanessa Casey, Chief Executive of the South Central Ambulance Charity, said: “It was fast becoming apparent that a number of the vehicles used by our volunteers were no longer reliable or cost effective to run and there was no replacement scheme in place, so the ideal solution was for us to invest in a brand new fleet.

“We’re a charity though, so it’s essential we stretch our funds as far as possible. With the Dacia Duster we already knew it was perfect for the job in terms of reliability and space, plus it delivered the all-important value for money both in terms of initial purchase and running costs. With the added support given to us by Dacia UK we were able to secure a fleet that was both affordable and reliable. It’s there to do a function above all else, but feedback from our volunteers has been excellent in terms of the drive and feel. Some were a bit sceptical at first, but they’ve certainly been won over by what the Duster offers.” 

Community First Responders are highly trained volunteers working in their communities.  Trained and deployed by SCAS, CFRs are sent to category 1 emergency calls such as cardiac arrest, heart attack, breathing difficulties and strokes. In most cases they can reach a patient before the first ambulance crew arrives and can start life-saving treatment for the patient. CFRs are a key part of the ambulance services frontline emergency response and as such hugely valued by the organisation and the communities in which they operate. 

Although spread across different counties that cover approximately 3,554 square miles, the volunteers were able to meet up and share their impressions of the Dacia Duster at Thruxton race circuit. The gathering marked the first time that the new vehicles and their drivers had come together since the Dusters arrived in the country, the Hampshire race circuit providing an easily accessible venue for all the volunteers and SCAC to mark the special occasion.

Luke Broad, Head of Brand at Dacia UK, added: “It’s fantastic to see the Dacia Duster take on such an important role and see how confident the Trust and its volunteers are in its ability. The order is the perfect illustration of how effective Dacia is in offering high quality, robust vehicles for little cash outlay and we’re delighted that the Duster is the perfect fit for the challenging requirements of both the Trust and its charity.”

The Dacia Duster offers a broad range of engine and trim level options, there’s a Duster for all occasions. The comprehensive petrol and diesel line-up has recently expanded with the addition of the TCe 100 Bi-Fuel LPG option, delivering an impressive combined range of over 620 miles and low CO2 emissions in LPG mode.

A wide choice of trim levels are also available, made up of Access, Essential, Comfort, SE Twenty and Prestige options, all of which deliver outstanding value for money and a generous level of standard equipment, while also bringing new levels of comfort and technology to Dacia models.