A fleet of 40 Dacia Dusters will be used to save lives in the Home Counties, after they were delivered to an ambulance service in the region. The South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS) NHS Foundation Trust has taken on the budget SUVs to use as rapid response vehicles, attending emergencies ahead of conventional ambulances.

Of those 40 vehicles, 27 are two-wheel-drive Comfort models, while the remainder are 4x4 Prestige versions that will be used in more remote and rural areas. All 40, however, use the Duster’s 1.5-litre TCe petrol engine, in tandem with a manual gearbox.

Each Duster is kitted out to the trust’s specifications, including bespoke liveries and ‘blue light’ conversions. That means there’s additional lighting and extra storage for items including a defibrillator, oxygen, masks and other medical supplies.

Now they have arrived at their new home, the vehicles will be deployed across Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Hampshire. Their work is funded by the South Central Ambulance Charity (SCAC), which supports SCAS by providing services and equipment not supplied by government funding.

The cars will be manned by specially-trained volunteers who will provide a rapid response to 999 calls where an ambulance is requested. Because the volunteers are dispersed throughout the region, they can often arrive quicker than an ambulance and administer potentially life-saving pre-hospital treatment. There is no NHS funding available for the programme, so all the equipment, vehicles and uniform are funded through public donations to the charity.

“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,” said Vanessa Casey, chief executive of the South Central Ambulance Charity. “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.”

Meanwhile Luke Broad, the head of brand at Dacia UK, said the order demonstrated Dacia’s quality and value for money.

“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,” he said. “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.”

Gallery: Dacia Dusters join ambulance service in the Home Counties