2,000 calls made to the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service were not responded to on time, latest figures show. Statistics released under the Freedom of Information Act show that 1,194 emergency calls were not responded to within the eight minute target set by the Northern Ireland Ambulance Trust.
The worst offenders during 2008-9 were the Northern and Southern Social Services boards, wiith both responding late to a whopping 42 per cent of calls made to them. The NHSSB, which covers Antrim, Ballymena, Ballymoney, Carrickfergus, Coleraine, Cookstown, Larne, Magherafelt, Moyle and Newtownabbey, missed the vital 8 minute deadline in 386 calls. SHSSB, covering Armagh, Dungannon, Craigavon, Newry, Mourne and Banbridge, responded late to 254 of its calls.
Figures from the Eastern and Western boards have raised concern among politicians also. Eastern Health and Social Services Board (EHSSB) botched 342 calls, while the Western Health and Social Services Board (WHSSB) missed the eight minute deadline on 212 calls.
Overall, Northern Ireland Ambulances met 67 per cent of their calls on time in the last year. This is more than 10 per cent below the UK average of 77.1 per cent.
SDLP Health Spokesperson Carmel Hanna MLA expressed concern at the figures.
“Considering the reforms that the Health Minister is carrying out within the Ambulance Service these figures are very disappointing and it would appear that he has yet to get a grip on this issue”, she said.
“I have no doubt that ambulance staff are doing their very best but are limited by lack of infrastructure which is in the pipeline but has not yet been delivered. In the interim the Minister must do all he can to ensure that the Ambulance Service is as efficient as possible.”
Earlier this week, Minister Michael McGimpsey announced the addition of 66 ambulance vehicles to the Northern Ireland Ambulance Trust, 26 of which are replacements. Only 15 are designated for emergency calls.
Currently, there are just 60-65 ambulances working daily across Northern Ireland. This means that on average, there is only one ambulance for every 28,000 people. The introduction of additional emergency vehicles will decrease this number to over 21,000.
NIAMB’s Freedom of Information Manager, Alison Vitty, defended the Trust’s call rates, arguing that they were making use of “defined resources”.
“Every public sector has to work within their defined resources. If there was a big pot of money, then obviously you would use it to get more ambulances, but that’s not the real world”, she said. “If you have 1,000 calls, you’re not going to meet every single one of them within 8 minutes.”

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