NIAS Chief Executive praises staff for commitment on day of action

The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service was subject tballymena-featured-imageo industrial action on 6 May in the form of withdrawal of labour by the UNITE Trade Union in addition to ongoing “working to contracted hours only” action by UNISON, GMB and NIPSA.

The combination of both led to the Trust developing contingency plans with a specific emphasis on the action planned for 6 May and its potential impact.

The Trust cancelled planned non-urgent work to free up the available PCS and ICS crews to assist their colleagues in the emergency tier by playing a bigger role in hospital discharges.

Further contingencies involved the Trust making use of voluntary and private ambulance services to support A&E crews by undertaking work within their scope of practice.

From midnight on Tuesday to 08:00 on Wednesday the Trust operated with 40 of 52 planned NIAS crews. From 08:00 to 20:00 on Wednesday 44 of 61 crews were on duty and from 20:00 to 23:59 on Wednesday 39 of 52 crews were on duty.

In the 24 hour period NIAS responded to 441 emergency calls.  149 of these calls were Category A (life threatening calls).  NIAS responded to 47% of Category A calls within 8 minutes against a performance target of 75% and a more recent performance of mid 50’s%.

The average response time for Category A calls was 12mins 11 secs.

NIAS Chief Executive, Liam McIvor said,

“6 May was a particularly challenging day for NIAS. I would like to express my thanks to all those who played a role in ensuring that whoever called for our help yesterday, got it. I would also like to acknowledge the professionalism of all involved in delivering our service. We see this dedication day-in and day-out but I am aware that many people went the extra mile, putting the best interests of the patient to the fore.  To those who had to wait longer for an ambulance than they would have expected, I offer my apologies but am sure that, when our crews arrived, the care received was second to none.”

NIAS advice to the public ahead of industrial action

The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service is facing more than two weeks of industrial action from Monday 27 April 2015, in addition to action already being taken by NIPSA which commenced at the beginning of April.

UNISON and GMB trade unions have informed the Trust that they will be advising their staff to work to contracted hours only from that date. The UNISON action will finish on 10 May and GMB will complete their action the following day.

Additionally the UNITE trade union has advised NIAS of their intention to withdraw labour for a 24 hour period on 6 May.

How will this impact on NIAS’s ability to deliver a service?

Working to contracted hours will reduce our capacity to respond as staff are being asked by Trade Unions not to work voluntary overtime. As a result of the withdrawal of labour by UNITE staff on 6 May 2015, NIAS anticipates that there will be an impact on the frontline but also within the Control room.

What will this mean for those who have need of the service?

In relation to the “working to contracted hours only” NIAS anticipates that this will impact on our ability to respond to calls as quickly as we would like and that a backlog of calls may build up.

In relation to the day of action on May 6, the Trust anticipates that there may be delays in answering calls in the control centre which will have a knock on impact on the despatch of ambulances.

What advice can NIAS provide to the public for this period?

The most important advice is that, at all times but particularly over this period, people should only use 999 when they really need it.

NIAS will continue to prioritise calls and will respond first to those with the highest clinical need.

Before calling 999, we would ask the public to consider:

•  Visiting a pharmacy

•  Contacting a GP

•  Using “out of hours” services

•  Using Minor Injury Units

•  Making their own way to the Emergency Department if appropriate

When would NIAS advise patients to phone 999?

NIAS would advise patients to call 999 especially, but not exclusively, in cases of:

•  Unconsciousness

•  Severe blood loss

•  Chest pain

•  Breathing difficulties

•  Severe burns or scalds

•  Fitting

•  Choking

•  Drowning

•  Severe allergic reactions

For more information, please visit our ‘Calling 999‘ page.

Is it possible that calls may not be responded to?

NIAS will seek to respond to all calls from the public. However due to the prioritisation process applied there may be delays for those less clinical urgent calls which we appreciate may cause distress to those involved including elderly people who may have fallen, some young children with broken bones or people who may have been involved in road traffic collisions and have not suffered serious injury.

Press Statement Issued jointly on behalf of NIAS Trust and Trade Unions

Ref: Industrial Action 13 March 2015

  The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service has been advised by Trade Unions of the intention of their members to strike on Friday 13 th March. The Trust recognises and respects the right of staff to participate in Industrial Action alongside the need to engage with Trade Unions to maintain patient safety and emergency services.

Discussions with Regional representatives had resulted in an agreed protocol whereby gaps in cover for emergency services and activities would be further discussed with local Trade Union representatives.

Following productive discussions today with local Trade Union representatives where the Trust has been informed that staff will either,

•  exercise their right to completely withdraw their services for full or part of the day or

•  staff may report for duty and only respond to Category A (potentially life threatening) calls. (Where possible staff who wish to respond from a picket line will be facilitated.),

a joint Management and Trade Union statement has been issued to staff highlighting progress that has been made during the discussions.

This current position protects response to the most seriously ill, potentially life-threatening patients, however, it represents removal of the capacity of the ambulance service to respond to and transport to hospital urgent but not immediately life-threatening patients, which accounts for 60% of 999 calls.

In relation to non-emergency work, NIAS has identified areas of work which would still be considered clinically critical including palliative care patients, oncology patients, renal patients and paediatric patients, towards which PCS resources will be directed as appropriate. The Trust must now cancel all other PCS activity on the day of the strike and patients will be informed accordingly.

Ambulance control staff are also involved in the strike action and this may impact on the speed at which calls to the Control centre are answered.

NIAS and Trade Unions continue to engage in a process to identify measures to address gaps in cover for emergency services and will reconvene on Thursday in an effort to progress these matters.