Ulster Unionist Health Spokesperson, Roy Beggs MLA, has warned that the continuing deterioration in ambulance response times is putting public safety at risk. His warning came after he discovered that during January 2018 only 39% of Category A calls were responded to within 8 minutes, far below the target of 72.5%, and a drop of 12% compared to the same period 12 months earlier.
Roy Beggs said:
“The importance of ambulances and paramedics arriving on time really cannot be emphasised enough. The longer someone has to wait for assistance in an emergency, the greater the risk there is of them coming to serious harm.
“The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service itself describes Category A calls as ‘the most serious calls, where there is, potentially, an immediate threat to life.’
“It is outrageous therefore, that whilst the official target is that 72.5% should be responded to within 8 minutes; in January 2018 only 39% of calls were met within this time. In fact I can reveal through information provided by the Health and Social Care Board, that the last time even 50% of calls were met within 8 minutes, was July 2017.
“The figure has been consistently deteriorating; down from over 68% in 2012/13 to just 47% up to January 2017/18.
“That is simply outrageous and falls far below the safe and sustainable standard that people should expect. It’s obvious that our Ambulance Service is facing unprecedented pressures and dangers. Whilst patients are suffering, it’s also completely unfair to be putting our paramedics in this situation.
“With an ageing population the demands being placed on our Ambulance Service are also constantly growing. The tragedy is I can see no action at all being taken to improve responses to urgent cases. As such, I fear we are destined to see even worse ambulance response times in the coming months. Such a situation would not be tolerated anywhere else in the United Kingdom, so it shouldn’t be tolerated here.”