Ambulance turnaround times are questioned

More than 2,000 ambulances had to wait more than an hour during patient handovers at Craigavon Area Hospital, it has been revealed.

Ulster Unionist MLA Jo-Anne Dobson, who received the statistics in an Assembly question, described the ambulance turnaround times as ‘outrageous’.

Turnaround times refer to the time between an ambulance arriving at the emergency care department with one patient and ‘clearing’ the area. The target turnaround is 15 minutes

Craigavon fared worst with 2,028 ambulances waiting more than an hour - according to figures from November last year to October this year. And on 170 occasions the turnaround times for ambulances were more than two hours.

Mrs Dobson said: “When patients arrive at hospital many can’t afford to be waiting for excessive periods of time in the back of an ambulance vehicle while the hospital scrambles to find a bed or trolley to put them in.

“Many people call for the Ambulance Service when they are in a medical emergency and whilst our brilliant paramedics will be able to stabilise them, it’s essential that they are quickly admitted to hospital to receive the required medical care. Any delay can have major implications.”

A Southern Health Trust spokesperson said: “It is important to be aware that ambulance turnaround times include the entire time an ambulance spent at a hospital including the periods before and after patients have been handed over to the Emergency Department. No patient waits in an ambulance... as they are brought into the hospital on arrival.”

Health Minister Michelle O’Neill said: “Ms Dobson has misrepresented my Department’s full reply to her question which clearly explains that the turnaround time includes the crew remaining with the patient until they are handed over to the relevant clinical personnel, as well as the time to clean and replenish the ambulance for the next call.”