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Service welcomes change to reduce ambulance cancellations

Patients across the capital stand to benefit from changes announced today to reduce the number of ambulances that are cancelled while on the way to emergency calls.

Under the adjustment to the dispatch system – which will come into effect from 1 June – up to an extra 60 seconds will be available to get more detailed information on a patient’s condition and location, to ensure that they receive the right response, first time.

It is expected that the changes will see more than 20 per cent fewer vehicles being cancelled once on their way to incidents. There should also be a significant reduction in the numbers of unnecessary dispatching of more than one vehicle to calls.

However, the changes will not affect calls to patients who are reported to have suffered a cardiac arrest and stopped breathing.
Staff in a response car and ambulance will continue to be dispatched immediately to these calls – and the fact that there will be fewer vehicles being immediately dispatched and then cancelled to less time-critical incidents should mean that more staff are immediately available to respond to the most seriously ill patients.

Work to bring about the changes has been led by the Service’s Chief Executive, Peter Bradley, in his role as the Department of Health’s National Ambulance Director.

Deputy Chief Executive Martin Flaherty said: “Under the current system, we end up cancelling too many of our staff in cars, on motorbikes and in ambulances while they are on their way to calls, once it has become clear that the situations are not as serious as first thought.

“By having this short extra period to better assess the patient’s condition, we will be able to keep more staff available to immediately respond to those who have stopped breathing, which really are time critical incidents.

“We are already reaching this small group of patients very quickly, and these changes should ensure that this will continue to further improve.”

The national target for Category A (immediately life-threatening) calls is to reach 75 per cent within eight minutes – which the Service has achieved for the last nine years.

This category of calls is itself divided into two groups – Red 1 and Red 2 – with Red 1 incidents relating to patients such as those who are reported to have stopped breathing, or whose heart has stopped beating so that they are in cardiac arrest.

In 2011/12, 81 per cent of these calls were reached within eight minutes.

All ambulance services across the country will be expected to show that they can reach 80 per cent of these most urgent patients within eight minutes by April next year.

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