Northern Ireland Ambulance Service investigating eight deaths after delays

The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service is investigating whether recent lengthy waiting times are linked to the deaths of eight people.

The deaths happened between the 12 December and the beginning of January.

In a statement a spokesperson said: "The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service has identified five incidents in the period between 12 December and 22 December where a response was delayed to a patient, in line with the categorisation of the call, and where a death was involved.

"As such, each incident was reviewed, by a NIAS internal Rapid Review Group (RRG), to determine if the incident should be notified as a Serious Adverse Incident (SAI).

"Four of the five incidents have subsequently been notified as SAIs.

"The fifth incident required further detail and will be reviewed on 5 January when a determination will be made as to whether it should be notified as a SAI. "Since 24 December, a further three incidents have been referred to the RRG for consideration to determine if they should be notified as Serious Adverse Incidents.

"These incidents will be considered on 5 January."

The ambulance service has been under severe strain recently with pressures on the health service ramping up.

Ambulance crews are being delayed at emergency departments due to the current pressures creating a backlog of patients.

It is causing knock on delays for other calls and emergency response times.

The probe comes amid continued problems across Northern Ireland hospitals.

As of midday on Wednesday over 700 people were waiting in emergency departments across the province while more than 400 were waiting longer than 12 hours.

There have been multiple urgent staff appeals across many trusts for workers to come in and help.

On Tuesday the Northern Trust urged staff to help at Antrim and Causeway hospitals.

Meanwhile, the Western Trust is the latest health trust to appeal for people to consider the most appropriate care service as pressures ramp up.

A senior emergency medic warned on Tuesday that the situation is getting worse and told UTV staff are in tears and facing "moral injury" because they are unable to provide the care they want.

Dr Paul Kerr said it is an "extraordinary winter" and the Royal College of Emergency Medicine is calling for more beds and staff to help address the crisis.

The Public Health Agency has also weighed in, urging people with any symptoms of respiratory illness to stay at home to stop the spread of infection.

The pressures are being felt right across the NHS.

Many trusts in England have declared major incidents in recent days due to the strain meanwhile Rishi Sunak is being urged to call crunch talks to address the crisis across the UK.

The Department of Health has urged people to self care if possible and utilise urgent care centres.

In a statement, a spokesperson said: "The entire Health and Social Care system across Northern Ireland continues to experience unprecedented pressures with many people experiencing significant delays in receiving care and treatment.

"Your support is vital at this critical time.

"Please play your part to help keep services running this winter by choosing the service that is most appropriate for your symptoms. By doing so, you will be on your way to getting better quicker, and at the same time easing pressure on staff.

"Emergency Departments offer specialist care to those who are seriously ill or injured and to those whose life is at risk. In an emergency always dial 999.

"For other conditions, please consider other services, including Urgent Care Centres (which are now running in Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast, Downe Hospital and Craigavon Area Hospital), Minor Injury Units, GP Out of Hours, or your own GP."

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