THE Welsh Ambulance Service will benefit from a £3.8m upgrade of its fleet of vehicles, Health Minister Mark Drakeford announced yesterday (Wednesday).

The funding will allow the service to buy 14 emergency ambulances; 15 large patient care service vehicles; four small patient care service vehicles; two health courier service vehicles and six specialist vehicles to replace part of its existing ambulance fleet.

The 14-plate emergency ambulances are due to go into production soon, and are likely to become operational next February or March.

The rest of the 41 vehicles are likely to be operational sooner.

Heather Ransom, Head of Resource for the Welsh Ambulance Service, said: "Not only will the new vehicles improve the comfort and safety of our patients but also the working conditions for our staff.

“Regularly replacing ageing vehicles ensures our fleet remains modern, reliable and fit for purpose.

“The investment will allow us to continue to improve the quality of our services for the people of Wales and enhance patient care."

The ambulance service currently has 736 vehicles covering an area of more than 8,000 square miles in Wales.

As well as increasing reliability and patient comfort, the new vehicles are expected to reduce overall operating costs for the ambulance service as they will be more fuel efficient.

The latest ambulance service performance figures reveale that 35,570 emergency calls were handled during June 2014.

They also show that immediately life-threatening incidents, which needed an emergency ambulance response