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An ambulance outside the Mater Hospital in Dublin. Leah Farrell

Over 110 complaints made to ambulance service last year, with almost half in Munster

A spokeswoman said the National Ambulance Service receives over 365,000 emergency calls a year.

112 FORMAL COMPLAINTS were made about ambulance services last year with sick patients and their families complaining about treatment delays, a lack of dignity and respect, or the absence of safe and effective care.

The highest number of complaints were made in the National Ambulance Service’s southern region – including Cork, Kerry, and much of Munster – where 45 complaints were logged.

There were another 35 complaints in the North Leinster region, which covers most of Leinster, part of Ulster, as well as some services in Dublin.

The National Ambulance Service (NAS) also received 32 complaints in the West region, which covers Connacht, Donegal, and parts of Munster.

A breakdown of the complaints reveals that 29 of them related to complaints about “dignity and respect” in dealing with a sick person or an emergency call.

There were three complaints about clinical judgment and five about safe and effective care, according to a database released under FOI.

Another 34 complaints were lodged relating to a lack of communications and information, while 36 were made over access to an ambulance, usually the length of time a person had to wait.

There were also a small number of complaints where the sick or injured person, or their family was unhappy with several aspects of how they were treated.

The number of complaints made was far higher in the second half of 2021 when 76 of the 112 complaints were lodged against the ambulance service.

July and October saw the highest number of complaints with sixteen logged in each month, most of them in the South or North Leinster regions.

Both February and May accounted for just three complaints each, according to the data.

The ambulance service said most cases had been closed with some remaining under investigation; however, they provided no detail on what the outcome of each was.

A spokeswoman said the National Ambulance Service (NAS) deployed up to 180 emergency ambulances, 22 rapid response vehicles, and more than fifty officer response vehicles to locations around the country every day.

She said: “Our staff work incredibly hard to deliver emergency services in the community and we are thankful for their continuing efforts at a time of high demand.

“In 2021, [the] NAS received in excess of 365,000 emergency calls. Throughout the year, 112 complaints were received. Most of these related to a delayed response to low acuity calls, which are not encompassed by response times standards.

“Our NAS staff put their patients and the community first and aim to provide the highest quality urgent clinical care. But when there is a high demand, the most urgent and life-threatening calls must be prioritised (using international standards in triaging), and this means that less urgent cases may need to wait longer for a response.”

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