Health Minister Simon Hamilton during a visit to NI Ambulance headquarters has praised the commitment and dedication of staff, who on average attend nearly 500 emergency 999 calls every day.
Outlining the important role that the organisation is playing in easing pressure on local Emergency Departments (EDs), the Minister said: “NIAS is playing a key role in the reform and modernisation of unscheduled care pathways. Highly qualified paramedics provide a wide range of clinical care and treatment to patients that may obviate unnecessary transport to busy hospital EDs.”
The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) has also been working with Health and Social Care (HSC) Trusts to ensure that patients who can go to a minor injuries unit are transported there rather than going to an Emergency Department.
The Minister welcomed efforts being made by NIAS to ensure that when patients are transported to hospital EDs, they are handed over promptly and ambulances turned around in the shortest possible time, so as to enable emergency ambulances get back on the road to attend other emergency calls.
During his visit, the Minister sat in with call handlers in the NIAS emergency ambulance control centre listening to 999 calls as they came through and engaging with the call handlers.
The Minister also used his visit as an opportunity to remind people that the ambulance service is there to respond to serious emergencies and people should only call 999 if someone is seriously ill or injured and their life is at risk.
He said: “I would wish to remind the public that they have options other than seeking an emergency ambulance. For example someone has the option of self-care, through the minor ailments scheme available at nearly all chemists, attending their GP and/or practice nurse or contacting the GP out of hours of service. Those who consider a visit to an emergency department is necessary, and are able, should endeavour to make their own way there.”
Liam McIvor, Chief Executive of the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service Trust said: "We are dealing with increasing demand year on year which stretches resources and personnel on the streets and in the control room. We are delighted that the Minister is visiting our hard working and conscientious staff and welcome his appreciation of the efforts of ambulance personnel. There are many ways the public can help themselves and save lives especially as we move towards winter - through considered and appropriate use of the emergency 999 ambulance service lives can be saved."
Notes to editors:
- The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) has a number of functions:
- Responding to emergency and urgent calls (including clinical triage and advice to non-emergency callers and offering alternatives to hospital attendance and emergency ambulance response);
- Non-emergency patient care and transportation (admissions, hospital outpatient appointments, discharges and inter-hospital transfers);
- Specialised health transport services (patients with specialist health needs such as organ transplant and access to critical/intensive care facilities);
- Training and education of ambulance professionals;
- Planning for coordination of major events and incidents;
- Community engagement and education.
- NIAS deals with an average of 488 emergency 999 calls a day. Over the past five years NIAS has experienced an increase in the volume of emergency calls received, from 166,415 in 2010/11 to 191,727 in 2014/15.
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