Tuesday, June 25, 2024
AMBULANCE TIMES CRITICISED

AMBULANCE TIMES CRITICISED

THE Down Community Health Committee has hit out at “the depressingly poor emergency ambulance response times in Newry, Mourne and Down”. The group issued a statement containing this criticism after it received a response to a freedom of information request on times it had submitted to the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS).

‘Whilst the regional mean response time to a Category 1 call – the most serious classification of calls to NIAS – is 11 minutes and three seconds, that for Newry, Mourne and Down is 16 minutes and three seconds,’ it read. ‘However, further analysis reveals that that for the Downpatrick electoral area is 18 minutes, that for Slieve Croob is 17 minutes and three seconds, and that for the Mourne area is 22 minutes and 15 seconds. ‘There is also a significant difference in response times to the Category 2 (very urgent) calls.  ‘The statistics reveal that the regional response time average is 37 minutes 39 seconds, but that for Newry, Mourne and Down averages 47 minutes and 56 seconds. ‘The Downpatrick electoral area response time is 52 minutes and 32 seconds, that for Slieve Croob 54 minutes and nine seconds, and that for the Mourne area was 26 minutes and 53 seconds.’

The statement added that Down Community Health Committee ‘recognises the magnificent work done by staff at all levels within NIAS, a service that is grossly underfunded’. Speaking on the matter, committee chair Eamonn McGrady said that “the simple fact of the matter is that there is a business case that was intended to increase staffing levels within NIAS, with a particular focus on improving the standard of service in rural areas across Northern Ireland, gathering dust in Stormont”. “Whilst clearly the absence of a functioning Executive must have some impact in this regard, one would have thought that this was an issue on which there would be cross-party support, and that, therefore, a decision could be taken by the permanent secretary, on behalf of the Department of Health, enjoying cross-party and indeed, more importantly, cross-community support,” he stated. “Clearly, there are very challenging financial circumstances at Stormont at the moment, but the failure to invest the appropriate resources has direct and immediate consequences for human life and the quality of human life across our district.”

Mr McGrady added that this issue “must be addressed” and that “any further delay is totally unacceptable”. “It is a particular concern that the response times are so bad for the Downpatrick electoral area,” he concluded. “It’s hard to believe that the area including the county town should suffer again in such a way, and it is most important that steps are taken to improve these responses. “The time has come to end the discrimination against rural communities in all aspects of healthcare provision, but, in particular, to address the service quality impact on local communities.” When contacted for comment, a NIAS spokesperson said: “NIAS has previously highlighted the challenges faced in terms of ambulance response across the region, and we, again, apologise for any delays experienced by patients. “NIAS continues to engage with Department of Health in respect of the previously submitted business case, which is designed to realise the benefits of the proposed clinical response model.” The department was also contacted, but had not responded at the time of going to press.

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