Congratulations Margaret Barclay – New Year’s Honours list with the Queen’s Ambulance Medal.

Congratulations to Margaret Barclay who has been recognised in the New Year’s Honours list with the Queen’s Ambulance Medal.
Margaret joined the ambulance service in January 1986 as the first full time female member of staff in Northern Ireland.
Margaret started on the Patient Care Service, bringing to patients, who had been entrusted to her care, an empathy and professionalism which remain the hallmark of Margaret’s approach to all she does today. In those early days, Margaret often went that extra mile by working well beyond her finishing time to ensure that patients, who may have been delayed at clinics, got home safely.
She then moved on to become the first female on the Emergency Medical Technician course. The course gave her more skills to add to those which come naturally to her and prepare her for the pre-hospital emergency field.
Having blazed the trail as the first female, Margaret was always there as mentor and go-to colleague for other females who were now joining the service. Her enthusiasm and selfless attitudes became inspirational to all who worked with her – including her male colleagues.
She moved up the ranks to become a Station Supervisor where she was given the opportunity to shape, in the most positive of ways, the careers of the many new recruits for whom she became responsible.
Providing adequate cover to meet increasing demand is a real issue for ambulance services. It is now Margaret’s role to oversee this challenging task – and as usual she goes at it with everything she has. Uppermost in her mind is ensuring that the needs of patients and staff are met.
Margaret has given more than 34 years exceptional service to the ambulance service and the community.
If you ever wonder if there exists a person who is universally liked, loved, respected and valued, just look at Margaret Barclay.
Margaret is a most worthy recipient of the Queen’s Ambukance Medal. Congratulations Margaret.
Take a bow.

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Good Relations week 2020

Northern Ireland Ambulance Service HSC Trust is committed to the promotion of good relations amongst people of different religious belief, race or political opinion.

During Good Relations week 2020, the 6 HSC Trusts engaged online with colleagues from the Community Relations Council, the Equality Commission and service users and carers, HSC staff and Trade Unions, local Council representatives, the Patient and Client Council, the Business Services Organisation, the Public Health Agency and representative organisations to-produce a consistent, clear and unequivocal statement for the HSC Sector to outline our pledge to promote good relations amongst everyone – our patients, service users, carers, visitors and staff.

Consensus was reached on the following statement and this has since been approved by our respective Executive Teams.  This will be prominently displayed throughout HSC facilities in Northern Ireland to remind everyone of this important commitment.

We recognise that to give effect to this statement, it is important that it is supported by key meaningful actions to be taken forward collectively at both regional and local levels to ensure consistency of approach.

We look forward to working with you to continue in our work to promote good relations and ensure that everyone is treated fairly with respect and dignity across all of our services and in all of our facilities.

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A Star is Born

Can you remember what your first day at work was like? For most people it will just slip into a mix of days to be remembered and days to be forgotten, unless something truly out of the ordinary happened.
Truly out of the ordinary – like maybe delivering a baby down the phone, would that count?
That is exactly what happened to Laura Maxwell, one of our new EMDs in our Emergency Control Room. Her first night shift would have started with a mixture of emotions – nervousness, a bit of anxiety mixed with excitement. Training was over, now for the real thing. At the start of the shift, Laura was placed under the mentorship of Kelly Burns.
Her first call came – her first call went. That was her – a real call dealt with. Not much time to rest on her laurels though, as the calls kept coming.
But by 10.30 pm events were unfolding in Co Tyrone that were going to change this nightshift into one that Laura would never forget. Declan and Gemma Louise Molloy have spent most of this year waiting on the arrival of their third child. Tonight was the night that baby Leo decided it was time to make his grand entrance – and no “making it as far as the hospital” for him nor did he fancy a home birth. Oh no. Sure it was only -4C outside, with a blanket of freezing fog. A perfect night for a road trip. Why not start out towards the hospital and see how far we get?
By midnight Laura had dealt with 10 calls and then at ten past midnight she picked up and answered another call for help. Laura was now instantly transported by phone to join Gemma and Declan in their car at the side of the road near Fivemiletown – because that is where Leo had decided it was his time.
Expertly mentored by Kelly, Laura gave clear and concise instructions to help deliver baby Leo and to ensure that everything was done correctly immediately after the birth.
The initial nervousness, anxiety and excitement and the experiences of her first ten calls had all led to this moment for Laura – a moment I am sure she will treasure throughout all the years we hope she spends with us.
A huge well done to Laura and to Kelly and indeed to the everyone in the control room, as everything really is a team effort in there.
Mother and son are doing really well and are very appreciative of Laura and Kelly for the calm way they handled everything, providing the reassurance and support they needed while waiting on a dark isolated country road until the ambulance crew arrived and took over.
Isn’t it great to get a chance to spread a little cheer.

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Challenges around ambulance cover

As with staff throughout the Health and Social Care system, those working in the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service have demonstrated huge commitment and professionalism in recent months in providing a service and dealing with the pressures associated with the Covid-19 pandemic.

As business returns to normal and demand on our service continues to increase, NIAS is facing increased challenges in maintaining planned levels of cover across all of our Divisions across Northern Ireland. Regrettably, this will mean that on occasions our response times to some calls will be delayed. We will continue to target our resources at the most seriously ill or injured to ensure they receive the fastest and most appropriate response to suit their clinical need. However, NIAS envisages that response times to those patients whose clinical need is less urgent will be longer than might be expected by patients and their carers. At all times, NIAS will seek to respond to all calls in the shortest possible time.

The reasons for this anticipated drop in cover/delayed response times are a result of a number of factors which individually would not be without impact but, when combined, have a much greater impact on our ability to provide cover.

They include;

  • Activity levels which have been increasing steadily over recent years without a commensurate increase in staffing levels. A recent, independent, demand/capacity review has indicated that NIAS requires an uplift of more than 300 operational staff to cope with current and projected demand on the service. NIAS is currently developing a business case for consideration by the Department of Health to secure the necessary funding.
  • Almost 20% of frontline staff absence from duty due to ordinary sickness or reasons related to Covid-19 which require at risk staff to take precautionary measures in relation to their own health.
  • A seasonal reduction in staff availability due to annual leave commitments. NIAS staff have an entitlement of two weeks leave over the summer period, which is rostered. This leave is planned and accommodated by other staff making themselves available for overtime. We are very grateful to our staff who were willing to postpone their leave normally taken in the Spring to ensure an effective ambulance response during the Covid-19 peak, and for making themselves available to work additional hours. However, those staff are now tired and need to be able to take their leave to recharge their batteries in order to deal with the normal high level of activity but also to be ready, both physically and mentally, to deal with a potential second wave of the virus and the normal winter pressures.
  • The challenges facing NIAS are also experienced across the other five Health and Social Care Trusts and this can impact upon the ability of NIAS crews to handover patients at Emergency Departments.

These delays in ambulance turnaround times, due in no small measure to reduced space in the EDs as a result of social distancing requirements, impact greatly on the number of crews we have available to respond to emergencies in the community, in a timely manner.

NIAS continues to work with colleagues in the Department of Health, Health and Social Care Board and the five hospital Trusts to find solutions to these issues.

  • These challenges are also compounded by a totally unacceptable increase of assaults on our staff who will, temporarily, be taken off frontline duties to recover.

NIAS anticipates that reduced levels of cover will be experienced across all areas at different times. However, all available resources at any particular time are managed regionally by staff in Emergency Ambulance Control to allocate the nearest available ambulance to the most urgent calls.

Additionally, highly skilled Paramedics within our Control Centre are available to give advice to patients with less urgent clinical needs, advising them of options other than ambulance or ED attendance. These Paramedics are an invaluable resource within our service delivery as they often ensure that ambulance crews are not tied up unnecessarily with inappropriate calls.

NIAS crews are also trained to consider if patients, to whom they have attended, would be better suited by options other than ED attendance. This “see and treat” protocol assists greatly in ensuring the earliest availability of crews to respond to other emergencies.

We are also very grateful for the support of our colleagues in the Voluntary and Private Ambulance Services who assist us by providing crews on a nightly basis.

These crews are not despatched to Category 1 or 2 calls. They assist us in those calls which are of a less urgent nature including hospital transfers and Healthcare Professional (e.g. GP) calls. Their invaluable contribution enables us to protect our own resources to respond to those calls which are identified as life-threatening or serious in nature.

NIAS Chief Executive, Michael Bloomfield, appealed for support from public representatives and the community in general to ensure that ambulances remain available to respond to life-threatening emergencies

“I appreciate the genuine concern of community and political representatives when informed of shortages in a particular area. However, I would like to reassure all stakeholders that we will continue to manage our available resources in a way which best serves the interests of patients and staff.

The public also have a role to play and we would appeal to them to do so. We still receive too many calls for which options other than calling 999 are available. We would ask that people only consider calling 999 for real emergencies, while at the same time advising people not to delay in the case of a real emergency.

We are there to help you. We want to provide you with the quickest and most appropriate response to your clinical need. We would ask you to remember that not all 999 calls require an immediate response and that if you experience delays to please remain patient. Our crews will be with you as soon as possible and will treat you with the utmost care, compassions and respect.

NIAS staff have, quite rightly, been lauded by the public for their professionalism and commitment during the Covid Pandemic. As Chief Executive, I am aware that this commitment and professionalism is ever present and I would like to take this opportunity on behalf of the Senior Team and Trust Board, to offer my sincere thanks to them all. From engaging directly with them I am aware of the great personal sacrifices they have made to make themselves available to respond to the crisis and protect the community. They do this selflessly and it is greatly appreciated. I am keen that we now enable those same staff to take a well-deserved rest during the coming weeks to give them a chance to be with their families, to whom I would also like to express my thanks for their patience and understanding.”

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NIAS Rebuilding Services Phase 2

Health Minister Robin Swann has today published the Trust rebuilding plans for July to September 2020.

The Minister said: “When I published the Rebuilding Health and Social Care Services Strategic Framework on 9 June, I was clear that increasing activity would be a significant challenge.  Covid-19 is still with us and will continue to impact on the extent to which and how we deliver health and social care services.

 “We need to increase the services as soon as possible and at the same time prepare for potential future surges.  We need to be able to maintain social distancing while delivering for the many citizens who are waiting on a procedure or a diagnosis.  I do not underestimate the challenge ahead and there will be a need to prioritise services given the significant constraints that our health and social care services continue to face.

“The public support throughout the pandemic has given strength to all of our health and social care staff.  This has helped them deliver vital services during the most challenging period ever encountered by the sector.  As we now move to increase capacity and activity, we will need to adopt a flexible and adaptable approach. I would urge the public to continue supporting our health and social care staff and show patience during this rebuilding phase.”

The document is accessible at:

NIAS Rebuilding Services Public Phase 2 Plan Final July- September 2020

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Challenges around ambulance cover

As with staff throughout the Health and Social Care system, those working in the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service have demonstrated huge commitment and professionalism in recent months in providing a service and dealing with the pressures associated with the Covid-19 pandemic.

As business returns to normal and demand on our service continues to increase, NIAS is facing increased challenges in maintaining planned levels of cover across all of our Divisions across Northern Ireland. Regrettably, this will mean that on occasions our response times to some calls will be delayed. We will continue to target our resources at the most seriously ill or injured to ensure they receive the fastest and most appropriate response to suit their clinical need. However, NIAS envisages that response times to those patients whose clinical need is less urgent will be longer than might be expected by patients and their carers. At all times, NIAS will seek to respond to all calls in the shortest possible time.

The reasons for this anticipated drop in cover/delayed response times are a result of a number of factors which individually would not be without impact but, when combined, have a much greater impact on our ability to provide cover.

They include;

  • Activity levels which have been increasing steadily over recent years without a commensurate increase in staffing levels. A recent, independent, demand/capacity review has indicated that NIAS requires an uplift of more than 300 operational staff to cope with current and projected demand on the service. NIAS is currently developing a business case for consideration by the Department of Health to secure the necessary funding.
  • Almost 20% of frontline staff absence from duty due to ordinary sickness or reasons related to Covid-19 which require at risk staff to take precautionary measures in relation to their own health.
  • A seasonal reduction in staff availability due to annual leave commitments. NIAS staff have an entitlement of two weeks leave over the summer period, which is rostered. This leave is planned and accommodated by other staff making themselves available for overtime. We are very grateful to our staff who were willing to postpone their leave normally taken in the Spring to ensure an effective ambulance response during the Covid-19 peak, and for making themselves available to work additional hours. However, those staff are now tired and need to be able to take their leave to recharge their batteries in order to deal with the normal high level of activity but also to be ready, both physically and mentally, to deal with a potential second wave of the virus and the normal winter pressures.
  • The challenges facing NIAS are also experienced across the other five Health and Social Care Trusts and this can impact upon the ability of NIAS crews to handover patients at Emergency Departments.

These delays in ambulance turnaround times, due in no small measure to reduced space in the EDs as a result of social distancing requirements, impact greatly on the number of crews we have available to respond to emergencies in the community, in a timely manner.

NIAS continues to work with colleagues in the Department of Health, Health and Social Care Board and the five hospital Trusts to find solutions to these issues.

  • These challenges are also compounded by a totally unacceptable increase of assaults on our staff who will, temporarily, be taken off frontline duties to recover.

NIAS anticipates that reduced levels of cover will be experienced across all areas at different times. However, all available resources at any particular time are managed regionally by staff in Emergency Ambulance Control to allocate the nearest available ambulance to the most urgent calls.

Additionally, highly skilled Paramedics within our Control Centre are available to give advice to patients with less urgent clinical needs, advising them of options other than ambulance or ED attendance. These Paramedics are an invaluable resource within our service delivery as they often ensure that ambulance crews are not tied up unnecessarily with inappropriate calls.

NIAS crews are also trained to consider if patients, to whom they have attended, would be better suited by options other than ED attendance. This “see and treat” protocol assists greatly in ensuring the earliest availability of crews to respond to other emergencies.

We are also very grateful for the support of our colleagues in the Voluntary and Private Ambulance Services who assist us by providing crews on a nightly basis.

These crews are not despatched to Category 1 or 2 calls. They assist us in those calls which are of a less urgent nature including hospital transfers and Healthcare Professional (e.g. GP) calls. Their invaluable contribution enables us to protect our own resources to respond to those calls which are identified as life-threatening or serious in nature.

NIAS Chief Executive, Michael Bloomfield, appealed for support from public representatives and the community in general to ensure that ambulances remain available to respond to life-threatening emergencies

“I appreciate the genuine concern of community and political representatives when informed of shortages in a particular area. However, I would like to reassure all stakeholders that we will continue to manage our available resources in a way which best serves the interests of patients and staff.

The public also have a role to play and we would appeal to them to do so. We still receive too many calls for which options other than calling 999 are available. We would ask that people only consider calling 999 for real emergencies, while at the same time advising people not to delay in the case of a real emergency.

We are there to help you. We want to provide you with the quickest and most appropriate response to your clinical need. We would ask you to remember that not all 999 calls require an immediate response and that if you experience delays to please remain patient. Our crews will be with you as soon as possible and will treat you with the utmost care, compassions and respect.

NIAS staff have, quite rightly, been lauded by the public for their professionalism and commitment during the Covid Pandemic. As Chief Executive, I am aware that this commitment and professionalism is ever present and I would like to take this opportunity on behalf of the Senior Team and Trust Board, to offer my sincere thanks to them all. From engaging directly with them I am aware of the great personal sacrifices they have made to make themselves available to respond to the crisis and protect the community. They do this selflessly and it is greatly appreciated. I am keen that we now enable those same staff to take a well-deserved rest during the coming weeks to give them a chance to be with their families, to whom I would also like to express my thanks for their patience and understanding.”

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NIAS Rebuilding Services Phase 1

The Minister of Health, Robin Swann, launched his “Strategic Framework for Rebuilding Health and Social Care Services” in the Assembly today, 9 June 2020.

Each of the six Health and Social Care Trusts have been working on their individual plans to rebuild their services in this period following the first phase of the Coronavirus Pandemic.

The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service, today, publishes its plan for Phase 1 of the rebuilding process. The plan examines the steps taken by NIAS that enabled us to adequately manage the first phase of the Pandemic while charting a way forward, initially, to the end of June when recovery plans will commence for the period July to September.

As we continue to move out of the first phase of the Pandemic, we do so with one eye firmly on the horizon for the emergence of any future waves of the virus which will require us to respond quickly to meet the needs of our patients. We are confident that, based on our experiences over the past number of months, we will be able to re-direct our resources to quickly respond to any changing needs of our patients.

Our staff have been the main reason that we were able to manage the situation thrust upon us in March. It is they who will have a key role in managing the NIAS response to future waves of the virus and protecting them remains our priority.

We will, in this recovery phase, reinforce those measures which can impact their ability to be available to respond to patients at their time of need. We will continue to emphasise the importance of social distancing and infection control as the key barriers to the spread of the virus. We will continue to work at securing adequate supplies of the most appropriate PPE for their use.

We will also build upon the positive experiences from our management of the first phase of the Pandemic. We want to explore the potential for greater use of technology in creative and innovative ways which became evident during that time.

We will seek to do all of this while working with our staff, our patients and our partners in HSC, guided by the principles contained within the introduction of our plan, which is accessible at:

NIAS Rebuilding Services Phase 1

The Minister has indicated that services will not and cannot resume as before. Better ways of delivering services will require innovation, sustained investment and, crucially, society-wide support. NIAS will be part of that rebuilding process, seeking to improve with new ways of working that will bring tangible benefits to our patients, staff and HSC partners.

We would ask for your continued support and patience while our full range of services begin to come online and we assure you that we will do our very best to be there for you at your time of need and provide the care most appropriate to your needs.

 

 

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