I raise the problem with ambulance services in Laois-Offaly. There have been a number of cases over the past two years of very long delays and, in one case, a no-show. One case was an elderly man in Clonaslee left lying in a yard. That went on for over two hours. There was a case in Rathaniska in a sports field involving a massive delay. There was a case in Portlaoise recently where there was a no-show to pick up the injured party. They had been advised by the ambulances services not to move the injured person. The reason for this, I am told, is there was no ambulance in the county at the time because the ambulance based normally in Laois could be in Waterford, Wexford or other parts of the south east. The deployment can stretch that far, and it is the same for Offaly.
There was a case in Naas recently where a horse fell on a man and he was trapped underneath the horse with a broken hip and internal bleeding. The ambulance was despatched from Portlaoise to pick him up and when they were within 2 km of him after travelling over 50 km, they were stood down and sent to an non-emergency in Athy.
Kilminchy is across the road from the hospital, 500 yd away. An ambulance was sent from Birr to pick up an elderly woman and bring her to the hospital in Portlaoise. There is a case of a Portlaoise ambulance crew being sent to west Offaly. They arrived at the gate, the people inside saw they were there and the next thing they were told they were stood down. The ambulance staff had to explain that the householders had seen them and they could not be stood down.
Having spoken to staff, there are different problems. Dynamic deployment, because of the shortage of staff, is causing problems. I have raised this with different levels of the National Ambulance Service, and indeed with Paul Reid twice in the last two weeks. There is an issue of a shortage of staff, which he has confirmed for me, of up to 25%. Scotland has 5,000 staff; we have 1,800. There are many graduates coming on stream next year and I welcome that but the distance issue has to be examined in terms of deployment.
I am aware that there are working groups established and that the distance is being examined, but this is a really important issue to try to get a grip on. It is a key issue.