13/08/2019

NIAS Operating With Reduced Crews

The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service operated with major staff shortages for a fourth consecutive night on Monday 12 August.

Ambulance crews were revealed to have been down 20 crews over the weekend, roughly a quarter of its normal workforce, while operations continued last night with around 12 crews less than normal.

The NIAS often collaborates with crews in the Republic of Ireland to draft in extra personnel, as was the case over the weekend, however no extra staff were on duty on Monday night. The shortage of staff on duty has potential to result in longer response times for citizens with emergency medical needs.

Politicians, including representatives from Sinn Fein, the SDLP and Alliance, are seeking meetings with the NIAS to address the staffing difficulties over the past four nights.

Sinn Fein MLA Pat Sheehan said a long term solution is required following the worrying drop in ambulance provision over the weekend. He commented: "The staff shortages in the Ambulance service which resulted in up to 20 crews being unavailable over the weekend is extremely concerning. 

"With several major large events taking place over the weekend involving tens of thousands of people this shortage is even more alarming. 

"It is welcome that other options have been explored such as all-Ireland cooperation between the two ambulance services on the island to ensure emergency cover is provided but it is clear a longer term solution is required."
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SDLP Health spokesperson Mark H Durkan also expressed concern at the chronic staff shortages and is seeking to explore the level of support needed to operate at optimum capacity.

The Foyle MLA highlighted deep-seated issues, including the recruitment and training of new staff, which require urgent attention. He commented yesterday: "It is unacceptable that the service has been left with no other option than to appeal to overworked ambulance staff on their much-needed days off in order to have some semblance of a functioning first-response provision."

Meanwhile, Alliance MLA Paula Bradshaw attributed the matter to the political stalemate at Stormont and the DUP and Sinn Fein's "neglect of their responsibilities".

The MLA for south Belfast said: "The public now face decreased cover, and the situation will only get worse without reform. 

"Full and proper reform of the Ambulance Service to meet standards already in place elsewhere in the UK is necessary not just for provision of emergency services, but also to support key parts of the overall transformation of Health and Social Care. 

"This weekend's shortage is another serious warning that vital public services are crumbling without an Executive. This is happening while the DUP and Sinn Féin, the two parties charged with providing that authority, dance on the head of a pin in order to avoid taking on the responsibilities which come with their mandates.

"The DUP and Sinn Féin are proving themselves incapable of doing anything other than a pathetic blame game, while the public face a seriously detrimental impact to vital services. It is time they reflected on their priorities, stopped shirking the big decisions, and got on with the job."



(JG/CM)

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