Minister for Health Leo Varadkar has welcomed the HIQA review of our ambulance services saying it should act as ‘a catalyst for further improvements’.
The report was brought forward by Minister James Reilly and is the first of a series of reports into ambulance services including the forthcoming HSE capacity review and the review of services in Dublin.
When all of these reports are in, the Minister will request from the HSE National Ambulance Service an action plan with timelines to realise a new vision for our ambulance services which will then be brought to Government.
“Our ambulance services have come on in leaps and bounds in recent years. I am grateful to the staff of the National Ambulance Service and Dublin Fire Brigade for the service they provide for our citizens. In the past, ambulances focused mainly on transporting patients to or between hospitals. Now, paramedics treat patients on the scene and en route.
“Intermediate Care Vehicles have freed up more ambulances for emergencies, allowing target times to be met. Rapid Response Vehicles bring advanced paramedics and doctors to emergencies to provide rapid treatment in advance of the arrival of an ambulance.
“More improvements are underway. The new National Control Centre will open in Tallaght with back-up in Ballyshannon in 2015, integrating the six regional services at long last. A budget increase of €5.4 million has been provided in the 2015 Service Plan to improve technology, clinical audit and address gaps in service, particularly in the West, by ending on-call and staffing additional stations. The introduction of postcodes, electronic patient records and line caller identification will save time and improve standards and audit.
“The HIQA report gives us some very good guidance on how services can be improved in the medium term. It’s clear that more investment will be needed to modernise the fleet and more staff will need to be provided in some areas, but HIQA also makes it clear that existing resources are not being used to best effect.
“More ambulances could be on dynamic dispatch rather than being parked up and waiting for a call in fire stations, ambulance bases or hospitals. A lot more needs to be done to improve turnaround times at Emergency Departments.
“We need to end the inefficiency of taking everyone who calls an ambulance to the nearest Emergency Department. In some cases, the best thing for a patient is to provide paramedic treatment on the scene, or give advice over the phone, or see the patient in a clinic the next day instead of taking them to a hospital, or take them to a minor injury unit or specialist centre instead of the local Emergency Department. Clearly these are big changes, and will require new training, protocols and a public education campaign, but it can be done.
“I also support HIQA’s view that greater integration between the Dublin Fire Brigade ambulance service and the National Ambulance Service is needed.”