Ambulance service warns of delays as they enlist help of other emergency services

The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) has announced it is enlisting the help of the other emergency services to help them deal with the Covid-19 pandemic.

n a statement the NIAS admitted it was struggling during the third wave of the pandemic, with a number of staff currently self-isolating, leading to shortages on frontline ambulances and in ambulance control.

It also warned that due to the strain on the service patients could face delays in ambulance response times, however they said they would continue to prioritise patients based on medical need.

In an attempt to deal with the staffing issues it’s facing the NIAS has enlisted assistance from a number of different avenues, including fellow emergency services like the PSNI and fire service.

A number of emergency services staff have been made available and after receiving the necessary training will drive ambulances alongside paramedics and emergency medical technicians.

The NIAS said this support built on the arrangements put in place during the first wave of the pandemic and would only be requested “after all other internal escalation measures have been deployed”.

It is also using its own non-emergency staff to support colleagues in accident and emergency.

Further support is being provided by the the “extensive use” of voluntary and private ambulances, who are mainly being used to respond to less urgent calls.

The NIAS said this frees up it’s own resources to respond to those most in need of medical attention.

“As always the public has a role to play in helping us to manage the demand on our services. We would ask that the public only call 999 for life-threatening emergencies and to not delay in doing so,” the NIAS statement said.

“NIAS will prioritise those calls which are most clinically urgent to ensure that we get to the sickest quickest. Other callers with less serious conditions will have to wait longer and, for that, we apologise.”

The Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) also admitted the pandemic is having an impact on their ability to function as normal.

“Like many organisations we are beginning to feel the impact on our ability to deliver our service,” a NIFRS spokesperson said.

However, the NIFRS said they were confident that the coping mechanisms put in place would ensure they could continue to deliver emergency response services to all parts of Northern Ireland.

The spokesperson said that the fire service wanted to reassure people it was still available to respond when needed and stressed the public should always call 999 in the event of an emergency.

“January continues to be a high risk time of year for accidental house fires in the home. With this increased risk, the fact more people are spending time at home due to Covid-19 restrictions, and the pressures NIFRS is currently under due to the pandemic, means that it is vital that the community play their part in being fire safe and fire aware,” the NIFRS spokesperson said.

“Follow the STOP Fire Message- S- have a Smoke alarm on every floor of your home; T- Test your smoke alarms weekly; O- be aware of the Obvious dangers in your home; and P- Plan your escape route, should a fire occur.”

Belfast Telegraph

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