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The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) is enlisting the help of police officers and firefighters as standby ambulance drivers as it battles with staffing issues during the Covid-19 crisis

The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) is enlisting the help of police officers and firefighters as standby ambulance drivers as it battles with staffing issues during the Covid-19 crisis

The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) is enlisting the help of police officers and firefighters as standby ambulance drivers as it battles with staffing issues during the Covid-19 crisis

The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) is enlisting the help of police officers and firefighters as standby ambulance drivers as it battles with staffing issues during the Covid-19 crisis.

In a statement the NIAS admitted it was struggling during the third wave of the pandemic, with a number of staff currently self-isolating, leading to shortages on front line ambulances and in ambulance operations.

It also warned that due to the strain on the service, patients could face delays in response times, although it said they would continue to prioritise patients based on medical need.

In an attempt to deal with its staffing issues, the NIAS has enlisted help from the PSNI and NI Fire and Rescue Service.

After receiving the necessary training officers from the other services will drive ambulances alongside paramedics and emergency medical technicians.

The NIAS said this support built on the arrangements put in place during the first wave of the pandemic and would only be requested "after all other internal escalation measures have been deployed".

It is also using its own non-emergency staff to support colleagues in accident and emergency.

Further support is being provided though the "extensive use" of voluntary and private ambulances, who are mainly being used to respond to less urgent calls.

The NIAS said this frees up it's own resources to respond to those most in need of medical attention.

"As always the public has a role to play in helping us to manage the demand on our services. We would ask that the public only call 999 for life-threatening emergencies and to not delay in doing so," the NIAS statement said.

"NIAS will prioritise those calls which are most clinically urgent to ensure that we get to the sickest quickest. Other callers with less serious conditions will have to wait longer and, for that, we apologise."

NIFRS also admitted the pandemic is having an impact on its ability to function as normal.

However, it said it was confident that the coping mechanisms put in place would ensure they could continue to deliver life-saving services to all parts of Northern Ireland.

The spokesperson said that the fire service wanted to reassure people it was still available to respond when needed and stressed the public should always call 999 in the event of an emergency.

Belfast Telegraph


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