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Significant progress on ambulance response times

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Ambulance responses to life-threatening calls within eight minutes has risen from 55% to nearly 72% over the last few years, Health Minister Michael McGimpsey said today.

This is despite the Ambulance Service having to respond to around 8,000 additional calls every year.

Speaking during an Assembly debate on ambulance services in the Lagan Valley area, the Minister said that response times in the area were among the best across Northern Ireland.

He said: "The Lagan Valley falls within the South Eastern Local Commissioning Group (LCG). Provisional performance figures for the end of September show that some 71% of Category A (life-threatening) calls being responded to within 8 minutes.

"This performance is well above the target for individual LCG areas which is that by the end of March 2011 not less than 67.5% of Category A calls should be responded to within 8 minutes.

"The level of high performance in the South Eastern LCG follows a trend of steadily improving performance. This progress has been hard won. When I first became Minister, performance for life-threatening calls was 55%. It now stands at nearly 72%. That huge improvement - achieved against a background of ever increasing demand averaging around 8,000 extra calls a year."

Continuing the Minister said that people should remember that this improvement came only after the implementation of a programme of reform, modernisation and considerable investment which he made in the Ambulance Service.

He said: "In 2008, I announced a major investment in the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) totalling almost £100 million over the next ten years. This will allow the service to modernise its estate and replace its fleet and equipment on a regular basis."

Over the CSR period from 2008 to 2011 this has included a £17 million investment which will purchase up to: 60 new A&E ambulances; 60 non-emergency vehicles and 26 Rapid Response Vehicles. A further £12.1m revenue funding was also invested to allow NIAS to modernise its services, respond more quickly to emergency calls and help deliver life saving emergency care to those who need it.

The Minister concluded: "This is not just about providing more ambulances and equipment. It's about people and new, more efficient ways of working.

"The recent improvement in performance in Lagan Valley and elsewhere means that NIAS is getting to more patients faster than ever before - this has the real potential to save more lives. However, I must warn that any future cut in the health budget will threaten the excellent and improving performance that Northern Ireland Ambulance Service has been achieving in Lagan Valley and throughout Northern Ireland."

Notes to editors:

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