With the continuous removal of acute services from Mid Ulster coupled with the centralisation of local services, ambulance response times continue to drop in performance.
During March to July 2012 the ambulance service only managed to arrive under target in 44% of life or death calls, this is a direct consequence of the removal of A&E services at Mid Ulster Hospital and lack of development at both Antrim and Craigavon A&E’s.
More worrying is that category C calls, hospital transport calls have patients waiting over an hour for their transport, a figure that will get worse with the current plans to move local services to urban areas. These moves are already backed by the Assembly through the Compton report.
The freedom of information gained by save The Mid also shows huge delays in regards to rapid response vehicles to the arrival of an ambulance to transport the patient. Rapid response vehicles were introduced surrounding the closure of A&E at Mid Ulster; however the only function they seem to provide is to beat the 8 minute target. They cannot transport patients and in most cases unless a doctor is present they can only administer basic paramedic aid.
For each month in question Save The Mid asked what was the longest time frame from calling the ambulance services to handover at hospital, in all months the longest time frames were for patients being delivered to Craigavon Hospital, this would mean that in this case the patients would live in the Cookstown Council area, otherwise they would have been taken to Antrim Area Hospital. In July it took a total of 4 hours and 27 minutes from the time of call to hand the patient over to Craigavon Hospital, the ambulance service stated that there were several resources at the scene and the patient was delayed handover at hospital.
The implications of delayed handovers at hospitals is that it leaves the Mid Ulster area very vulnerable as it leaves one less ambulance in the area for emergencies, although not highlighted in the Compton report basic requirements such as ambulance support must be strengthened in Mid Ulster.
Save The Mid congratulate the Ambulance service for the dedication and hard work that they do, it is not their fault that past and present health chiefs and health Ministers expected an ambulance to replace what was a fully functional A&E at the Mid Ulster Hospital site.
A 20 year history of stripping health services from Mid Ulster is fulfilling itself, death rates are rising, increased waiting times for ambulances, A&E waiting times reaching levels never seen before in the history of Northern Ireland. Hospitals are full and patients sent to private practices using tax payer’s money for basic operations as the Health minster and health chiefs refused to make additional capacity inside hospitals such as the Mid Ulster.
In line with longer patient trips fuel bills within the Northern Health Board area have rose over £165,000 since the A&E was removed at the Mid Ulster Hospital site. During the year 2011/12 the Fuel bill stood at over half a million pounds (£579,178).