'˜Significant pressure' on NI Ambulance Service causing Christmas delays

High demand over the Christmas period has led to 'significant delays' for some patients requiring an ambulance, the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) has said.

The ambulance service reported a sustained period of increased demand
The ambulance service reported a sustained period of increased demand

The NIAS has also urged anyone seeking treatment over the holidays to consider contacting their GP, using an out-of-hours service, or making their own way to the nearest hospital emergency department.

A spokesman said: “The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service has been experiencing a sustained period of increased demand.

“This has resulted in a delay in the response to many of our calls.

“We will continue to prioritise the most serious calls to get a response to the sickest patients as soon as possible.

“However, calls for less serious emergencies are still currently subject to significant delays.

“We would advise that the public only phone 999 for an ambulance in the event of a serious medical emergency.”

The spokesman added: “We would take this opportunity to remind the public that arrival at an emergency department by ambulance does not mean you will be seen or treated more quickly than self-presentation.”

Earlier this week, the Southern Health Trust reported patients waiting up to 34 hours to see an out-of-hours doctor.

Following an appeal for all available doctors to report for work where possible, the waiting time was said to have reduced to six hours by Boxing Day.

A spokeswoman for the South Eastern Trust said there had been “exceptionally high call volumes” to its out-of-hours service.

“All patients were treated and all of our resources were deployed, and we would like to thank all of the staff involved for all of their hard work over this exceptionally busy period,” she said.