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HSE says achieving ambulance response times in rural areas is 'always a difficult task'

Denis Naughten TD has reacted to a HSE report that finds Ireland is too rural for the service to meet its targets.

Image: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland

Updated 12.05pm

THE IRISH AMBULANCE service cannot service certain parts of Ireland in accordance with targets set as the country is too rural, according to a confidential Health Executive Service report.

The HSE Capacity Review report of the ambulance service, commissioned by the HSE in 2014, is believed to state that Ireland cannot meet official targets for response times and cannot compare itself to rural England due to Ireland’s rurality, adding our costs of running the service is significantly higher.

In a statement the HSE said that achieving ambulance response times in rural settings is ‘always a difficult task’.

The report draws certain comparisons with the service in England and allegedly questions why the National Ambulance Service in Ireland immediately bring patients to emergency departments when other countries, such as England, operated a system in which patients are first treated at the scene.

Denis Naughten TD has demanded that ambulance service management not “throw in the towel on rural Ireland on foot of a flawed ambulance capacity review”.

Response times 

“This report, which seems to base its conclusions on England, is not comparing like with like, and suggests that even with resources, only 64% of emergencies can have a first responder at the scene of the incident within 8 minutes,” said Naughton.

He said that in Scotland, 74.7% of responses there were within the eight-minute target in 2012-13, while in Northern Ireland their target for responses within eight minutes is 72.5%, with a minimum target not less than 65% in any area.

Yet this report is stating that we cannot achieve that here.
Loss of life 

“The fact is that every delayed ambulance, potentially leads to the loss of a life, and geography should not determine if you should live or die,” said Naughton.

He also said that he found it “amazing” that, even though the ambulance response time figures were highlighted at the time that the Government was closing the smaller emergency departments, the public were assured that Ireland would have a “world class” ambulance service”.

We now find that these communities are to be completely abandoned and the clear policy agenda across all State agencies is to forget rural Ireland, because saving money is now more important than saving communities or lives.

A statement from the HSE stated that the National Ambulance Service is not in a position to comment on the incomplete report, as the review is still underway.

The National Ambulance Service National Capacity Review is currently underway and is being conducted by a company with extensive international expertise in this area.

This is the first time that such a review has been conducted in Ireland and will explore the resource requirements required to improve response times across the country as a whole.

It will determine what resources are required and how they can be used in the most efficient manner.

The HSE said in the statement that it should be noted that achieving response times in rural settings is “always a difficult task for any ambulance system and often requires extensive investment in additional resources coupled with extensive community based first responder schemes”.

The capacity review is expected to be completed early in 2015. The HSE said that further information will be available once the report has been completed.

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