Belfast Telegraph

11 minute wait for ambulance after 999 call, figures show

Waiting times for ambulances in Northern Ireland have steadily risen over the past five years with those needing urgent care facing a potential wait of over 11 minutes on average.

The figures obtained from the Health and Social Care Trust have been published by the BBC.

Response times are divided into four categories:

  • A- Potentially immediately life-threatening
  • B- Serious but not immediately life-threatening
  • C- Non life-threatening/serious

In 2017 the average waiting time for a category A call was 11 minutes and 26 seconds. That has risen from 2013 when it was seven minutes and 23 seconds. An increase of four minutes.

In 2017 the average waiting time for category B was 17 minutes and 41 seconds.

This has increased from 2013 when it was 10 minutes and 33 seconds.

In 2017 for non-life threatening/serious injury the waiting time was 30 minutes and 9 seconds, up from 12 minutes and 56 seconds in 2013.

In five category C cases in the past year, pensioners waited more than 15 hours for an ambulance.

The number of 999 emergency calls received increased from just over 100,000 in 2015 to more than 230,000 in 2017.

A spokesman for the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) acknowledged that performance against targets for Category A calls has been declining over recent years but said these issues were not unique to it and were reflective of challenges faced by services across the UK.

The spokesman said: "To address the situation, NIAS has been working with colleagues across Health and Social Care to ensure that the most appropriate response is provided to meet the specific needs of patients.

"Care pathways providing appropriate alternatives to emergency department attendance have been implemented including the introduction of Paramedics into our emergency control room to provide telephone advice to those whose needs are less urgent and may not require ambulance care.

"NIAS has also recently completed a demand/capacity review alongside a review of our current dispatch procedures and has developed proposals which aim to provide the most immediate and appropriate clinical response to the most seriously ill or injured. The proposals also include improved call handling for less serious calls."

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