Half of serious calls not reached in time

LESS than half of the most serious emergency call-outs in Banbridge have been answered by the Ambulance Service within the target time in the past year, it has emerged.

Statistics released from the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) show that of 738 calls in relation to “immediately life-threatening” incidents, only 368 - that’s 49.9 per cent - reached the scene within the target time of eight minutes.

Information received by the NIAS also showed that, while there are two ambulance vehicles in Banbridge Ambulance station only one is ever on duty. It also emerged that Rapid Response Vehicles, which are sent ahead of ambulances in some usually less serious cases, are not based locally and instead must travel from surrounding areas including Newry and Craigavon.

The NIAS figures showed they are well above target for Category B and C calls, which are in relation to serious and non-life threatening injuries respectively.

But the shortfall in Category A call target times is far from satisfactory according to Banbridge resident Drew Gregg.

Responding to NIAS’s spokesman John McPoland who said the service is currently meeting and going beyond its target time for the Southern Trust area overall, Mr Gregg said, “I am only concerned about the Banbridge area.

“It appears from these figures that the Banbridge area is not receiving the same treatment or attention as other areas and that is very worrying.

“If someone is at death’s door you wouldn’t want to be in Banbridge when the ambulance was called.”

Mr McPoland said the figures may reflect a difficulty in reaching some of the more isolated areas in the district.

“NIAS accepts that challenges exist in meeting this target in more rural areas,” he said. “For this reason NIAS will always despatch the nearest appropriate and available resource to respond to 999 calls. NIAS is continually seeking to improve its response to all such calls, but in particular those which are immediately life threatening.”

He added that the NIAS is doing its best in an environment of “limited resources”.

But Mr Gregg expressed his concern that money could be put to better use.

“I understand there are cost issues but I feel a lot of that is tied up in administration and a lot of money in the Health Service seems to be wasted.

“People are not concerned about red tape and forms being filled in, they want the guarantee of an ambulance if they are in need of one.

“I want to make it clear that, for the most part, the Ambulance Service do a great job, and I’m not knocking the staff. I’m happy they are meeting their targets in Category B and C but it just seems we are not getting the same service as other areas and I would urge them to try and improve their service as quickly as possible.”

In a bid to warn those using the emergency call service, Mr McPoland added that people must ensure they are using it correctly to avoid time-wasting.

“We will continue to work with others to ensure that we are ready to respond to those who need us,” he said. “But we must ask that people consider carefully their use of the ambulance service, given that over 20 per cent of calls responded to last year did not actually need a 999 response.”