Response times vary significantly regionally, and reliance on response times alone to measure pre-hospital emergency services is of limited value. We are, therefore, moving to complement time-based indicators with clinical outcome indicators for better assessment of modern ambulance work.
As the Deputy knows, the west is geographically challenging, with 61,500 emergency and urgent responses in Galway, Mayo and Roscommon alone in 2012. This challenge is, however, being met through staff development, fleet and control investment and resource management. Steps to improve response times include faster mobilisation, improved dispatching, better use of community responders and the roll-out of on-duty rostering in 2014.
In addition, the intermediate care service, which provides inter-hospital and retrieval services, freeing up existing emergency resources for emergency calls, is being expanded. Eight new intermediate care ambulances and over 70 staff were provided in the west and north-west in 2013. The availability of the emergency aeromedical service also frees up ambulances, with an estimated land resource gain of 560 vehicle hours and 1,100 crew hours a year. A recent review of this shows it is having a very positive effect and should be continued.
In 2014, Castlebar ambulance control will move to the national control centre at Ballyshannon, so crews can be dispatched across the region. The national ambulance service will also deliver a more dynamic service where ambulances move to different locations during a shift, based on predictive analysis of the best location at any time. This will ensure better geographical cover, response times and patient outcomes. The national ambulance service also proposes to undertake a capacity review for current and future needs in each region, including the west. This will examine areas including staff numbers, skill mix, which is very important, and resource locations, and will inform the further development of pre-hospital care in the west and across the State for the benefit of communities and patients.