Belfast Telegraph

999 ambulance call-outs 'double'

The number of 999 ambulance call-outs in Northern Ireland has almost doubled in the past 10 years.

The NI Ambulance Service now fields 116,000 emergency calls a year - up 80% on the volume a decade ago.

A third of the 999 contacts relate to life threatening cases, according to a watchdog review of the service.

The increased volume in call-outs was outlined as the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) delivered a broadly positive report on governance with the NIAS.

Experts from the Scottish Ambulance Service were among RQIA members who carried out the independent assessment of management.

Glenn Houston, RQIA chief executive said: "Within the report RQIA highlights examples of good practice across the five quality standards. We found strong evidence of clear lines of accountability for governance to the NIAS board, and we commend the commitment and enthusiasm shown by NIAS staff during this review."

Mr Houston continued: "The review team found that the views of service users were considered by NIAS in the design of its services. We also found that the ambulance service works collaboratively with other health and social care organisations. RQIA believes that there is the potential to consider how out-of-hours and emergency care can be further integrated to ensure users experience a seamless service."

In addition to the emergency response service, NIAS also provides a non-emergency patient care service for hospital appointments and discharges.

RQIA noted that ambulances were often held up doing these transfers and said staff had suggested the introduction of dedicated vehicles to provide this service so freeing up A&E ambulances.

The reviewers recommended that the provision of patient care services was reviewed to make sure it was being used appropriately.

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