The National Ambulance Service (NAS) is continuing to modernise and reconfigure its services to ensure emergency pre-hospital care is delivered in an appropriate and timely manner. A significant reform programme is currently underway which will provide a clinically driven, nationally co-ordinated system, supported by improved technology. In that regard, additional funding of €3.6 million and 43 staff have been provided in the National Service Plan 2014.
For ECHO calls, which are life threatening cardiac or respiratory calls, the HSE set a target in 2013 for 70% of vehicles to meet this response time. For DELTA calls, for life-threatening conditions other than cardiac or respiratory, the target was 68%. Nationally in 2013, emergency ambulances responded within 19 minutes for 69.4% of ECHO calls and 63.7% of DELTA calls. Some individual regions performed as high as 79% for ECHO calls. I would also point out that over 2,100 more emergency calls were reached within 19 minutes in 2013 than in 2012.
In order to drive improvement in response times, the 2014 National Service Plan sets a target that 80% of life threatening calls should be responded to in less than 19 minutes. Ongoing performance improvement projects include:
- the single national control system, to be completed in 2015
- the Intermediate Care Service, for routine and non-emergency transfers, allowing emergency vehicles to focus on emergency situations
- the move to on-duty rostering and the development of a national rostering system
- the Emergency Aeromedical Support Service - 368 missions were completed in 2013, one third of which involved time critical transfers of STEMI heart attack patients to primary PCI units.
I would also like to draw the Deputy's attention to three separate reviews of ambulance services currently underway. HIQA is examining the governance arrangements for pre-hospital emergency services; the HSE and Dublin City Council have commissioned a joint review of Dublin ambulance services to determine the optimal and most cost-effective model of ambulance services delivery for the city; and the UK Association of Ambulance Chief Executives is undertaking a comprehensive capacity review of the NAS, to determine what level of resourcing, in terms of staff, vehicles, skills and distribution, is required to deliver a safe and effective service now and into the future. I am confident that these reviews will inform the development of a modern, clinically driven system, properly resourced, for appropriate and timely services to the benefit of patients.