Ulster Unionist Health Spokesperson, Jo-Anne Dobson MLA, has expressed her shock after it was revealed 7,973 ambulances were forced to wait for more than an hour over the last year after arriving at Northern Ireland’s hospitals with a patient. It has been further revealed that on 496 occasions the turnaround times for ambulances were more than two hours. The information has come to light following an Ulster Unionist Assembly Question which sought the information broken down by each emergency hospital.
Jo-Anne Dobson said:
“These figures are outrageous. When patients arrive at hospital many can’t afford to be waiting for excessive periods of time on the back of an ambulance vehicle while the hospital scrambles to find a bed or trolley to put them in.
“Many people call for the Ambulance Service when they are in a medical emergency and whilst our brilliant paramedics will be able to stabilise them, it’s essential that they are quickly admitted to hospital to receive the required medical care. Any delay can have major implications as it is medically proven that patients who are seen quickly have better outcomes than those who have to wait.
“I believe this latest revelation of appalling ambulance turnaround times further illustrates the unprecedented crisis currently engulfing almost every aspect of our local health service.
“Turnaround delays can also have an impact on overall response times as ambulances are held back from taking on their next 999 call. Recently the Ulster Unionist Party revealed that the Ambulance Service target to arrive at the scene of emergency calls was missed over both of the last two years. Last year the average response time to Category A calls – those considered to be immediately life threatening - was 10 minutes and 17 seconds, despite the target being 8 minutes.“The Health Minister needs to realise that reducing patient handover delays requires whole system working. A major contributory factor to these appalling turnaround times is a shortage of beds for new admissions. A key cause of this are other patients who are ready to be discharged but who have to stay because no care home or package of support in the community is available for them. My Party has previously revealed that last year there were 68,000 delayed discharges, despite a bed costing on average £400 per day. Proactively investing in social care would in turn save our hospitals money and greatly reduce the delays being experienced by new admissions.”