Northern Ireland ambulance chief warns of five-year wait to meet current demand

The Ambulance Service is continually struggling to meet response time targets because they are caring for patients outside busy emergency departments, it has been warned.

And the head of the service has said it could be at least five years before they have the staff in place to meet demand - if the funding was immediately made availble.

Chief Executive of the Ambulance Service Michael Bloomfield told UTV that 25% of the service’s operational capacity is spent waiting at emergency departments. 

“If our ambulances are waiting at emergency departments then they are clearly not available to respond to other calls waiting in the community,” he said.

Some ED patients face waits of several hours outside hospitals in the back of an ambulance before a bed becomes free.

Staffing levels within the Ambulance Service are also adding to pressures, Mr Bloomfield said.

He warned that it could be at least five years before the service can recruit the additional 300 staff needed to meet demand.

“An independent review found that we need an extra 325 operational staff to be able to consistently respond to calls within the target time. 

“The time it will take to recruit and train the number of staff - that’s a five-year programme.

"If we were to be allocated that funding immediately we simply could not recruit and train that number of staff in one go,” Mr Bloomfield said. 

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