29/02/2008

Paramedics Doctor Their First Response

It was as easy as 1,2,3 for Northern Ireland Ambulance Service staff to 'doctor' response statistics last year.

It has now emerged that records of how long crews took to answer emergency calls were falsified in a startling 123 cases in 2007.

In its defence, the service has said 'pressure to meet targets' and provide the fastest possible response times was given as motivation for falsifying records.

However, the staff concerned - two members who doctored records while initially suspended during an inquiry - have now returned to work.

The Ambulance Service says that the dispatch centre - where all Northern Ireland's emergency ambulance calls are answered - is a highly pressurised working environment.

The service said that the 123 doctored records represent less than 1% of all the calls answered at the centre during that time.

It pointed out that it does not condone the practice of falsifying records and it said that improved procedures are now in place.

The service also claimed that the records related to potentially life-threatening emergencies over a seven or eight month period between April and November last year.

However, the Chairwoman of Stormont's Health Committee Iris Robinson said the revelation would deal another blow to public confidence.

"This is very worrying indeed," said the Democratic Unionist Assembly Member.

She added: "It's very concerning to me and I will be raising it with the Health Minister at the first opportunity."

(BMcC)

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