Northern Ireland news

Ambulance Service apology after taking almost 40 minutes to reach elderly man injured a mile away from Causeway Hospital

A spokesman explained that it was categorised as a Category B call which has a response time of 21 minutes.

AN 84-year-old man who suffered "serious head injuries" just a mile from a hospital in Co Derry had to wait almost 40 minutes for an ambulance because the closest available one was in a town 27 miles away.

The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) has apologised for the delay in attending the man who fell close to a petrol station on Castlerock Road in Coleraine at 10.10am on Sunday.

A spokesman explained that it was categorised as a Category B call which has a response time of 21 minutes.

East Derry SDLP assembly member John Dallat said his constituent "sustained serious injuries to his head causing extensive bleeding".

A passer-by went to help and called 999 for an ambulance, but "was put on hold for approximately two minutes or more before the call was answered by an operator".

She was given instructions by an operator, but called again at 10.34am "as the man had gone into shock and the situation became very frightening".

"She was told the ambulance was on its way from Ballymena and finally arrived at 11.00am and took the patient to the Causeway Hospital," Mr Dallat said.

NIAS, who say the initial call was logged at 10.16am, said the ambulance arrived at 10.54am.

"I have the greatest regard for our ambulance service but need to find out the circumstances which led to a situation which required assistance from Ballymena, a distance of 27 miles away, when the patient was about a mile from the hospital," the politician said.

"I worry too about how the ambulance cover fits in with our emergency planning for the area. Is the community adequately covered if there was an emergency for whatever reason?"

The assembly member has contacted Department of Health permanent secretary Richard Pengelly and the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service Trust "seeking an assurance that this area is properly sourced to cope with emergencies".

"The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service regrets that it was unable to provide a more rapid response to the elderly gentleman who had fallen in Coleraine on Sunday morning and would apologise to him for the delay he encountered," a spokesman said.

"In normal circumstances one of the two crews based in Coleraine ambulance station would have been despatched to the call and would probably have arrived at the scene almost immediately.

"However, at the time of this call both Coleraine crews were attending a two vehicle road traffic collision in Portrush. The duty crews in Ballymoney and Ballycastle were also engaged on other calls prior to this one being received.

"As such, NIAS despatched the nearest available ambulance, which was based in Ballymena, to the incident, arriving at 10.54am."

He added the service "is currently moving forward with the implementation a new Clinical Response Model which will ensure that the sickest patients will get the quickest response and we will provide the most appropriate response to suit the clinical needs of all other callers".

A `Demand and Capacity Review' recommends 330 additional staff for the new model - including more than 120 paramedics - which is to be in place by 2021/22.

A spokeswoman for the department said: "The department will respond directly to the correspondent through our normal process."

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