The Ambulance Service yesterday revealed a new pilot scheme aimed at streamlining patient handover at emergency departments to help ease pressure on under-pressure crews this winter.
It said that at busy periods crews and their vehicles can be held up at A&E for some considerable time while patients are transferred into the care of nursing staff.
That means the vehicles and their crews are not available to answer 999 calls while handover formalities are completed.
In a bid to tackle this waste of emergency resources, a new "ambulance receiver" service is being piloted at the Ulster Hospital in Dundonald.
The receivers, based at the hospital, will care for patients arriving by ambulance and then transfer them to the nursing staff.
The process will free up crews to be immediately available to answer new emergencies, where their skills and equipment could make the difference between life and death.
During 2017/18 delayed turnaround times at hospitals reduced emergency ambulance cover by 72,000 hours.
The Ambulance Service said that a trial of the scheme had gone very well.
It is hoped that the process could now be extended to other casualty departments across Northern Ireland.
"This pilot has proved to be successful in reducing the length of time that crews are actually at hospital and increased the time available for them to respond to life-threatening emergencies," it said.
"The Ambulance Service is keen that the pilot should now roll out to other emergency departments as appropriate."
It also urged people to consider alternatives before calling for an ambulance, especially during the busy winter period.
"We will do all we can to deliver the highest quality of care in the most timely manner possible," it added.
"However, the public also have a role to play by ensuring that they contact us only when it is necessary to do so."
And it called on people to respect ambulance staff as they carried out their lifesaving duties.
Earlier this month the BBC reported that there had been 2,278 reported incidents of abuse of paramedics here since 2012/13.