Ambulance hygiene issues to be tackled

An ambulance
An ambulance

The NI Ambulance Service has welcomed additional support to address concerns over standards of cleanliness.

It comes after inspectors carried out surprise spot checks at 21 ambulance stations in February.

While good standards were found in some stations and vehicles, others fell short on infection prevention, hygiene and cleanliness.

As a result, the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) has recommended that a health professional be seconded to the service for a period of three months initially.

The RQIA carried out two unannounced inspections in July 2017, one at an ambulance station in Broadway in Belfast, the other in Bangor.

They flagged up issues such as blood-splattered equipment, ambulances dirty on the inside, unclean equipment, containers not closed and poor hygiene standards.

Follow-up inspections found insufficient action had been taken.

Further unannounced inspections took place at all 21 ambulance stations across the Province in February of this year. These inspections found mixed results - while a good standard of hygiene and cleanliness was evident in a number of stations and vehicles, others remained at an unacceptable standard.

In a statement, the NIAS welcomed the additional support, adding: “We take this matter very seriously and are committed to take all necessary steps to ensure our stations and vehicles meet the high standards required to protect the patients who use our services.”

Alliance MLA Paula Bradshaw said the outcome shows the inspection system is working.

“What we are seeing here is the penalty for inaction – the Ambulance Service should have been prioritised far sooner. There is now an opportunity to do this under new leadership,” she added.