Concerns have been expressed about shortages in ambulance cover in parts of the Province.
The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) has admitted it failed to meet targets for ambulance cover in its Northern Trust area two-thirds of the time over a six-month period.
However, NIAS went on to say that during the same period they were operating at 91.5% efficiency, meaning that only one or two ambulances were not available on those days that full cover was not achieved.
The figures were released as part of a Freedom of Information request to East Antrim MLA Gordon Lyons, who expressed his astonishment that during a period of 181 days – from November 2016 to April 2017 – planned cover was not realised on 121 days.
On most occasions the dropped cover related to one to two ambulance shifts not being covered in the Northern Division on a daily basis. NIAS said there were “limited higher occasions” in December 2016 were the highest figure was identified as five ambulance shifts not being covered on a particular day.
Mr Lyons said: “These figures will rightly be met with a mixture of outrage and concern. The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service have effectively confirmed that 67% of planned cover from November 2016 to April 2017 was not achieved.”
The MLA claimed this meant that “many of our towns were without any ambulance cover for a significant period of time”. He added the situation was “not sustainable in the long term”.
The NIAS said that in the Northern Trust area it planned to provide between 17 and 19 emergency ambulances per day and 12 ambulances each night for the period between April 2016 to March this year.
“NIAS achieved an average of 91.5% compliance with planned shifts,” it added.
“NIAS is currently engaged in a review to determine increasing demand trends for its services and the capacity required to meet that demand.”