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£1m bill for repairs after an ambulance crash every week

Ambulance crashes cost the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service more than £1m last year, figures released to The Belfast Telegraph show.

On average an ambulance was involved in a collision every week, with 61 accidents over the 12 month period. In addition to £1.2m spent by the NI Ambulance Service on repairs and routine maintenance to its fleet of 300 vehicles, the service’s insurance company paid more than £25,000 for third party claims.

Figures revealed under the Freedom of Information Act show that one accident in the Enniskillen area, where an ambulance driver crashed the vehicle into a parked car, cost the insurance company £5,791 in third party damages.

A head-on collision in the Armagh area cost £2,828, while an overtaking manoeuvre that went wrong in the Dungannon area cost £1,700.

Kieran McCarthy, health spokesman for the Alliance Party, described the figures as “staggering” and pointed out that the money could have been invested in front-line services.

Mr McCarthy said: “It’s important to remember the Ambulance Service provides a tremendous service to the public. When they’re out and about the drivers are trying to meet targets and get to places as quickly as possible.

“What you really have to ask is, is it worth that extra £1.2 million to get there to a target?”

He added: “This is a perfect example of the pressure the service is under. We should use any means possible to reduce the number of crashes and the amount of money spent on repairs, and put it back into the service.”

John McPoland, communications officer for the NI Ambulance Service, said the trust would look to improve its cost efficiency by moving the regular maintenance of its vehicles in-house, subject to public consultation.

He said: “The total number of accidents in which NI Ambulance Service vehicles were involved should be set in the context of transporting more than 350,000 patients last year and equates to approximately one accident for every 82,000 miles travelled.

“The NI Ambulance Service would always seek to minimise the risk to patients and other road users, ensuring that all recruits to the service undertake a driving module, appropriate to their duties, as part of their training.”

Mr McPoland said the fleet of ambulances covered roughly five million miles every year.

Between 2007 and 2008 the service saw its vehicles’ insurance premium rise marginally from £246,170 to £247,256.

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