Northern Ireland ambulances missing 999 target times



Ulster Unionist MLA Roy Beggs has released figures showing a dangerous deterioration in ambulance response times, which he said is
Ulster Unionist MLA Roy Beggs has released figures showing a dangerous deterioration in ambulance response times, which he said is

Ulster Unionist MLA Roy Beggs has released figures showing a dangerous deterioration in ambulance response times, which he said is “putting public safety at risk” (stock photo)

By Lisa Smyth

April 16 2018

Ambulance crews are failing to meet official targets for patients with life-threatening conditions in two out of three cases, it has been claimed.

Ulster Unionist MLA Roy Beggs has released figures showing a dangerous deterioration in ambulance response times, which he said is “putting public safety at risk”.

According to Mr Beggs, only 39% of paramedics arrived to category A calls – the most serious – within eight minutes in January this year.

“This is far below the target of 72.5% and a drop of 12% compared to the same period 12 months earlier,” he said.

The release of the statistics is the latest blow for the struggling NI Ambulance Service (NIAS), which has come under fire from health officials and even its own employees for unsafe working practices in recent months.

Last month the Belfast Telegraph revealed that the health watchdog RQIA had imposed sanctions after repeated failures by NIAS bosses to address hygiene standards.

The health watchdog was so concerned by conditions at ambulance stations that it asked the Department of Health to intervene.

Reacting to the figures provided by the Health and Social Care Board, Mr 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.

“It is outrageous, therefore, that whilst the official target is that 72.5% should be responded to within eight 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 eight 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. The Ambulance Service acknowledged the increase in category A response times over the past number of years.

A spokesman said the main reason was increasing demand, along with the length of time it takes to hand over patients to emergency departments.

He added that the NIAS had carried out analysis of capacity needs and developed a plan for a new clinical model “to provide the most urgent response to the most clinically urgent patients”.

It has been backed by the Health and Social Care Board, and is now being considered by the Department of Health.

Belfast Telegraph


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Ambulance response times continuing to deteriorate – Beggs

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.”

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Greenisland House to open in May – Beggs

East Antrim Ulster Unionist Party MLA Roy Beggs has welcomed an update he received from Choice Housing relating to the keenly anticipated opening of Greenisland house, which states that the building will be ready for occupation from Monday 14th May 2018.

Roy Beggs MLA said “I am advised by Choice Housing that the £4.2m dementia friendly supportive living accommodation at Greenisland House provided in conjunction with the NHSCT and Triangle will be ready for occupation on the 14th May, with 15 tenants waiting to take up occupancy and a further 6 households to be made an offer of accommodation. I had pressed for investment in supported living at the Greenisland House site when the residential care home at the same location closed its doors a number of years ago. This announcement is a welcome investment in supported living at Greenisland House within East Antrim and I am pleased that the work has completed and all services are now finalised, following unexpected delays and after years of lobbying.”

A spokesperson from Choice Housing added “We are happy to accept referrals for any suitable, elderly households who are interested in rehousing at Greenisland House. In particular, we have a number of available apartments which would suit frail, elderly, single applicants.”

Ends

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NHS has forked out £7m on gluten-free foods in Northern Ireland



The health service in Northern Ireland has dished out almost £7million worth of gluten-free products free on prescription, it can be revealed
The health service in Northern Ireland has dished out almost £7million worth of gluten-free products free on prescription, it can be revealed

The health service in Northern Ireland has dished out almost £7million worth of gluten-free products free on prescription, it can be revealed

By Victoria Leonard

April 2 2018

The health service in Northern Ireland has dished out almost £7million worth of gluten-free products free on prescription, it can be revealed.

The products, which include loaves, pizza crusts, rolls, flour and bread and cake mixes, are available on prescription under the Northern Ireland Drug Tariff.

In total, £6,991,825 was spent on the foodstuffs from 2013 to 2017. A spokesman for the Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) said that the products are prescribed for patients who are “diagnosed with gluten-sensitive enteropathy with coexisting established wheat sensitivity.”

She added: “The Advisory Committee on Borderline Substances (ACBS) recommends products for inclusion on the basis that they may be regarded as drugs for the treatment of specified condition.”

UUP MLA Roy Beggs has called for a public consultation on the provision of gluten-free products on prescription, arguing that the products have become much more widely available in recent years.

Last year, primary care providers here spent £1,268,484 on prescribing gluten-free bread products, down from £1,554,604 in 2013.

Several gluten-free products have been available on prescription to people with a confirmed diagnosis of gluten-sensitive conditions such as coeliac disease in Northern Ireland since the late 1960s. This is similar to all other parts of the NHS in the UK.

However, all the products are also available to purchase online from supermarkets and chemists.

The greatest spend on a single item last year was on Juvela gluten-free loaf sliced, which cost the health service £168,072.

A 400g loaf costs the NHS £3.54, but is available to buy in supermarkets for just £2.80.

Similarly, a packet of Barkat gluten-free bread mix (500g) can be purchased for £4.89 online – but costs the health service £6.94 per packet.

Another product, Barkat gluten-free home fresh country loaf (250g), is available to buy for £2.79 online. However, it costs the NHS £4.43 to prescribe per pack, an extra £1.64.

An HSCB spokesperson defended the costs: “The aim of prescribing these items free of charge on prescription is not to provide free medicines to people who would otherwise pay for their medication.

“However, it is well documented that adherence to a gluten-free diet is essential for patients with confirmed gluten-sensitive enteropathies, for example coeliac disease, in the prevention of long-term complications such as osteoporosis or other conditions.”

Charity Coeliac UK defended the prescription of gluten-free products on the NHS.

A spokesman stated: “The treatment for coeliac disease is the gluten-free diet. And the necessary removal of food containing gluten, for example bread and other staple foods from the diet, requires significant adaptation given the key role of the foods in the diet.

“Replacement of core staples such as breads and flours by gluten-free equivalents enables better adherence to a gluten-free diet. This in turn avoids ill health and expensive treatment of complications.

“Access to gluten-free core staples on prescription also helps address the risk of inequality due to the higher pricing and limited availability in retail affecting those people who use budget and convenience stores.”

The spokesman added that the amount spent on gluten-free prescriptions in Northern Ireland is “in line with the spend of other parts of the UK in view of the number of people diagnosed with coeliac disease in Northern Ireland”.

But Mr Beggs added: “At this moment in time the Northern Ireland health service is in the midst of its worst-ever waiting times crisis, so difficult decisions will need to be taken in order to ensure that the NHS is best spending the resources it is being given every year.

“A major public consultation was carried out by the UK Government last year and the majority of responses were in favour of the NHS in England restricting gluten-free prescribing to certain products such as bread and mixes. The UUP would be broadly supportive of moving to a similar scheme in Northern Ireland.”

Belfast Telegraph


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‘Doomed to get worse’: One-third of urgent cancer referrals wait more than two months to be seen



New official stats have shown a third of urgent cancer referrals in Northern Ireland wait more than two months for their first appointment. (Lynne Cameron/PA)
New official stats have shown a third of urgent cancer referrals in Northern Ireland wait more than two months for their first appointment. (Lynne Cameron/PA)

New official stats have shown a third of urgent cancer referrals in Northern Ireland wait more than two months for their first appointment. (Lynne Cameron/PA)

March 29 2018

New official stats have shown a third of urgent cancer referrals in Northern Ireland wait more than two months for their first appointment.

The figure is for December 2017, and shows a decrease – from 68.7% to 66.4% – for the same period in 2016.

From April 2017, the Department’s target for cancer treatment is for 95% of patients urgently referred with a suspect cancer to begin their treatment within 62 days.

Figures published on Thursday by the Department of Health for the final quarter of 2017 show the health service falling short of its treatment targets.

Ulster Unionist MLA and health spokesman Roy Beggs said it was “deeply disheartening” that cancer services had “suffered a further major deterioration”.

“Compared to twelve months ago, the two key targets which cancer services are measured against have both worsened. It is outrageous that in December only 66.4% of patients started treatment for cancer within 62 days following an urgent referral – a further fall of over 2% on the year before, and despite the target being 95%. This is shocking and completely unacceptable,” he said.

The other target referred to by Mr Beggs is for breast cancer services in Northern Ireland.

The government’s target is for every urgent breast cancer referral to be seen within two weeks.

In December 2017, 1,022 of the 1,266 (80.7%) patients given urgent referral for suspected breast cancer were seen within two weeks – a drop of more than 10% from the 91.4% of patients seen within two weeks in December 2016.

Mr Beggs added: “This time last year I said that if the two larger parties could ever get their act together and form a functioning Executive, the next Health Minister urgently needed to focus their efforts on cancer prevention, early detection and rectifying the gaps within the local medical workforce which are causing the delays. That didn’t happen and now cancer waiting times have continued to get worse.

“The frightening thing is, as far as I can see, there is nothing being done to resolve the current crisis so I fear waiting times generally are doomed to get far worse before they get any better and the people of Northern Ireland will continue to suffer unnecessarily.”

Belfast Telegraph Digital


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