Ambulance response times labelled 'biggest clinical risk' in country as Cork TD raises concerns

A Cork TD said that the importance of the National Ambulance Service (NAS) “cannot be underestimated” but that the issue with ambulance turnaround times is continuing to “deteriorate” and, in turn, having a knock-on effect on patient safety and care.
Ambulance response times labelled 'biggest clinical risk' in country as Cork TD raises concerns

The director of the National Ambulance Service, Robert Morton, said that the issue is “probably the single biggest clinical risk that we face at the moment”.

THE director of the National Ambulance Service has admitted that ambulance turnaround times are “the single biggest clinical risk” being faced in the country right now.

It comes as a Cork TD raised concerns about ambulance turnaround times at hospitals, describing the situation as “unacceptable in this day and age”.

Cork East TD James O’Connor was speaking during a meeting of the Oireachtas public accounts committee today.

The Fianna Fáil TD said that the importance of the National Ambulance Service “cannot be underestimated”.

He said that the issue with ambulance turnaround times is continuing to “deteriorate” and, in turn, it is having a knock-on effect on patient safety and care.

“We recently had an incident in East Cork where there was a gentleman waiting for over 90 minutes for an ambulance and unfortunately died — and I’ve dealt with other consequences of people who have been waiting well in excess of an hour,” Mr O’Connor said.

“The consequence here of course is that the person who was waiting for the ambulance is now deceased.

“Unfortunately, this seems to be a recurring issue. Our existing ambulance staff, particularly in the HSE Cork/Kerry region are working exceptionally hard. I know many of them, they’re good people but they will tell you themselves that they’re under huge stress.

“Something I find completely unacceptable when it comes to getting to the hospital and staff having to remain with patients at the hospital and disallowing them effectively from leaving places like CUH and other emergency rooms to get back on the road and get back out there helping people is a system I think is profoundly flawed.”

Mr O’Connor suggested that the HSE should put in place a task force to look at the issue over a six-month period and get teams in place at hospitals to receive the patients so the crew of the ambulances can get back on the road.

'COMPLEX ISSUES'

The director of the National Ambulance Service, Robert Morton, said that the issue is “probably the single biggest clinical risk that we face at the moment”.

“I think working closely with all of our colleagues across the acute hospital sector we collectively realise the implications of offload delays and the clinical risk that presents effectively to a patient lying on the ground who is waiting for an ambulance because it’s parked at a hospital somewhere.

“The solutions are complex,” Mr Morton said.

“Some of it is down to capacity, both in the hospitals and obviously in the ambulance service, but what we’re focused on is working with our acute hospital colleagues to try and streamline the process of handing over patients and looking at extremist measures that we can take and part of that will be how we prepare for the forthcoming winter period.”

He said the issue is “very very high” on the radar but that the solution is for the acute hospital and National Ambulance Service to look at it together.

Responding to Mr O’Connor’s comments, the chief operations officer of the HSE Damien McCallion said that there is a group already in place focusing on a “collective solution” between hospital groups and the ambulance service.

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