A deterioration in ambulance response times is putting public safety at risk,
That was the stark warning from Ulster Unionist Health spokesperson Jo-Anne Dobson.
She was commenting after the Minister of Health confirmed that fewer ambulances in ‘life threatening situations’ are now arriving on time.
Mrs Dobson said: “The importance of ambulances and paramedics arriving on time 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 target for Category A calls, those which are considered to be life threatening, is that 72.5% should be responded to within eight minutes. It is frightening however that the most recent figures confirm that only 58% arrived on time.
“Over the last 24 months there has been a general deterioration in response times, with even one month in 2015 witnessing only 49.9% of ambulances arriving within eight minutes.
“In addition these figures correlate with information that my Party obtained last year that revealed in 2011/12 77% of fire appliances in high risk situations arrived within the target of six minutes, but by 2014/15 this had fallen to only 59%.
“Both of these figures now confirm that the crisis in our hospitals has spread across to our emergency services. For many years Northern Ireland had an emergency response system to be proud of, now however people in real emergencies such as road traffic collisions and those experiencing cardiac difficulties are having to wait for longer for emergency assistance to arrive. That is simply outrageous and falls far below the safe and sustainable standard that people should expect.
“In addition the delays on arriving at scenes then places even greater strain on our emergency personnel to carry out their life-saving work. Much like our nurses, our paramedics are being forced to work in almost impossible circumstances.”
Mrs Dobson added, “I was glad that the Minister in his response accepted that the delays were unacceptable, however, it was disappointing that he expressed no regret at all for them. The deterioration in response times and the general collapse in hospital waiting times can be directly attributed to the crisis in the NHS finances, a situation that the current Minister of Health Simon Hamilton helped to create whilst he was the Minister of Finance. It is my genuine hope that the revelation of these figures, as well as the recent belated increase in funding, will ensure that our emergency services are adequately resourced.”