Ambulance service callouts affected by delays from increased demand
AMBULANCE chiefs have warned of delays in call-outs amid "increased demand" on the emergency services system.
A spokesman for the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) last night said they have been "experiencing pressure on the system" over the Christmas period, which has led to longer wait times for patients.
The warning from the NIAS comes just a day after it was reported that patients contacting a doctor out-of-hours in the Southern Health Trust area have had to wait up to 34 hours over the festive period.
The trust said on Tuesday evening that the number of calls received have been significantly higher than last year.
In a statement last night, the NIAS spokesman said it had been "experiencing a sustained period of increased demand".
"This has resulted in a delay in the response to many of our calls," he said.
"We will continue to prioritise the most serious calls to get a response to the sickest patients as soon as possible.
"However, calls for less serious emergencies are still currently subject to significant delays."
The NIAS urged people to only call 999 if there is a serious medical emergency, adding: "For less serious problems you should continue to contact your own GP or local out-of-hours service in the first instance.
"Please consider alternative transport to an emergency department or minor injury unit for lesser injuries and complaints.
"We would take this opportunity to remind the public that arrival at an emergency department by ambulance does not mean you will be seen or treated more quickly than self-presentation."