There are over 400 assaults on staff from the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) each year – more than one a day.
NIAS has a zero tolerance policy in relation to these assaults. Our staff should not be subject to such behaviour, especially while they are providing care to patients. The vast majority of these incidents are not reported in the media, but that does not make them any less concerning. All assaults on ambulance staff are totally unacceptable and result in a reduction in cover to respond to calls from people who depend on our service.
This past weekend saw a number of particularly serious assaults on our staff. On 19 and 20 May three instances occurred, two of which involved staff requiring hospital attention. In one of these, a member of our frontline staff who has given over 40 years service to the community sustained injuries to his head, arms and body when attacked outside a hospital emergency department. His assailant was restrained by hospital security staff until the PSNI arrived. This is now an ongoing investigation.
However it is not only our frontline staff who are abused. On Friday night, two EMDs and a Duty Control Manager experienced serious and unacceptable verbal abuse over three phone calls. Further action may be taken in these cases.
NIAS continues to work with Trade Unions and staff to ensure the appropriate levels of post incident care are provided to our staff who are victims of such abuse.
Commenting on these incidents, NIAS Chief Executive, Michael Bloomfield, said:
“I am deeply concerned about the frequency and level of ongoing abuse and assaults towards our highly committed and professional staff. A survey published last week by the Department of Health in which almost 7000 patients commented on their experience from arriving at hospital until they left, showed that 98% of patients said that ambulance staff behaved in a polite and courteous manner, and the same number (98%) said ambulance staff showed them care and compassion. The vast majority of patients value our staff for the excellent work they do, however regrettably a small number do not show them the same level of courtesy. This is unacceptable and NIAS believe that anyone found guilty of attacks on our staff should face the full rigour of the law.
I wish our staff who were injured in these incidents a full and speedy recovery.
Ambulance staff work in a very challenging environment, and respond with professionalism to every call they are sent to, providing a high level of care to people at some of their most distressing and vulnerable times. Unfortunately when incidents such as these occur, the level of ambulance cover is reduced and patients who need our service may wait longer, sometimes for life threatening treatment. I therefore call on the public’s support and that of public representatives in helping us bring these assaults to an end.”
Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland and Scotland to benefit from Community Paramedic services to enable care to be provided closer to a patient’s home
This week has seen the formal launch of the €1.1 million EU INTERREG VA funded cross border Community Paramedic Project. Tony O’ Brien, Director General of the Republic of Ireland’s Health Service Executive (HSE), was joined by representatives from the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service, the Scottish Ambulance Service and the HSE’s National Ambulance Service at the launch in Dublin.
This new collaboration between the three national ambulance services has been warmly welcomed and has resulted in the establishment of Community Paramedic services in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Community Paramedics associated with this project are undergoing specialised training accredited by Glasgow Caledonian University. The project has recently commenced and is enabling Community Paramedics to provide safe and effective care to patients in their own homes and communities and is already reducing unnecessary ambulance transports to emergency departments.
The Co-operation and Working Together (CAWT) Health and Social Care Partnership in collaboration with the Scottish Ambulance Service, the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service and the National Ambulance Service in the Republic of Ireland developed the Community Paramedic Project bid for EU INTERREG VA funding which was successful in securing €1.1 million for an 18 month period.
The Project will target specific patient populations in remote and rural areas / border areas of the three regions. The four pilot localities which have been identified for this scheme include Castlederg, Co Tyrone in Northern Ireland; Buncrana, Co. Donegal and Clones, Co. Monaghan in the border region of the Republic of Ireland; and the Argyle & Bute region in SW Scotland.
In addition to providing Community Paramedic training to eligible individuals, the EU funding is being used to invest in new rapid response vehicles for the pilot areas in the three ambulance regions. These vehicles are fitted out specifically to provide care to patients in their homes or their community. This means that, within the pilot areas, more patients can be treated at home instead of having to be transported by ambulance to hospital emergency departments.
Commenting on this initiative, Michael Bloomfield, Chief Executive of the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service said: “At a time when Health and Social Care is experiencing unprecedented demand which manifests itself in extreme pressure in Emergency Departments, the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service is delighted to be participating in this initiative enabling Paramedics to work closely with other healthcare professionals within rural and border area communities. The greatest benefits will be felt by patients themselves who will receive the appropriate assessment and treatment in their homes, if admission to hospital is not the deemed appropriate. NIAS welcomes the introduction of this enhanced Paramedic role as it offers an excellent opportunity for career progression for staff.”
Speaking at the launch event in Dublin, Tony O’Brien, Director General of the HSE welcomed this new initiative, which allows Paramedics to broaden the routine healthcare services they provide and will help to improve rural urgent medical services. He said: “Emergency Care pressures are a constant challenge for all health systems in Europe. This innovative project, enabled by EU funding and collaboration with other member states, is a good example of how we can ensure patients receive the right care in the right place while also easing some of the pressures on our Hospital Emergency Departments. I have no doubt that it will be successful and that we will be rolling it out across Ireland as a key part of our Urgent and Emergency Care system in the coming years.”
Welcoming the project Gina McIntyre, CEO of the Special EU Programmes Body said: “The EU’s INTERREG VA Programme provides funding to organisations that can implement joint cross-border solutions to issues that affect citizens living in the border region. This project, involving ambulance services working together, will enhance the health and social care of citizens living in more rural and isolated areas and will enable the transition from tra
ditional institution-based service provision to a more community-based approach.”
The launch was attended by project participants and stakeholders from all three regions.
Match-funding for the project has been provided by both Departments of Health in Ireland and Northern Ireland and by the Scottish Government.
The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service responded to a medical emergency in Larne on the evening of Tuesday 28 November 2017.
On arrival, the crew were confronted by a patient who proceeded to kick a crew member.
Following this assault, the crew continued to transport the patient to hospital for further treatment. En route to the hospital, the patient continuously behaved in an aggressive manner, including verbal and physical assaults on staff and attempting to damage lifesaving equipment.
PSNI were called and arrived at the scene to arrest the patient for assault, attempted criminal damage and disorderly behaviour.
This was the crew’s first call of the night, and they continued to work the remainder of their shift despite this violent incident. In contrast, the last call of their shift was to a 4 month old baby who had to be rushed to hospital. If this crew had been unable to carry on with their shift due to the earlier assault, it may have delayed the baby receiving help and getting to hospital for further treatment.
Attacks on our crews continue at a rate of more than 8 a week. This situation is totally unacceptable. We have previously talked about the impact that these attacks have on the communities we serve in terms of crews being stood down mid-shift. We have talked about the potential for the loss of life as a result of reduced cover following these assaults. While this potential still exists we are even more concerned about the impact of such assaults on the health and well-being of our staff.
These assaults are not something which our crews are able to forget about within minutes. We have evidence to show how the impact can be felt years later and the event relived at any moment in time.
NIAS will continue to call for the full rigour of the law to be applied in instances where evidence against an assailant is clear and indisputable. We are heartened at some of the recent sentences that have been passed and hope that those who find themselves before the court on such charges will face the real prospect of custodial sentences.
An ambulance crew was assaulted in Trillick last night by a female patient who had called for their assistance moments earlier.
Responding to a 999 call, the ambulance crew sought to do nothing more than help an individual in need. During assessment and initial treatment the patient struck out at one of the female crew striking her on the face and also kicking her. The second member of the crew, who was also female, attempted to intervene to prevent the patient from damaging equipment and, as a result, sustained an arm injury.
The crew removed themselves from the scene and called for police assistance who arrived and dealt with the individual involved.
Both crew members were stood down as they were unable to continue their shift meaning that the significantly rural area in and around Enniskillen was left with reduced cover between 11pm and 8am this morning with only one crew remaining to cope with calls in the area.
Assaults on our crews continue on an almost daily basis and the Trust hopes that by continuing to highlight those more serious in nature that everyone with influence in local communities and leadership positions wider afield will do all they can to support our staff, particularly by ensuring that those who carry out such attacks are brought before the courts to face the real prospect of custodial sentencing.
The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service is changing its uniform for the first time since its inception in 1995.
The old royal blue shirts and navy trousers are to be replaced by the nationally recognised green uniform from Monday 12 September.
The change means that NIAS staff will now look the same as colleagues across the UK.
The change comes after extensive consultation by the Trust’s Uniform Committee which is made up of management representatives and trade union members representing the views of staff.
Bryan Snoddy, Assistant Director of Operations, and chairman of the Uniform Committee welcomed the change saying;
“The move to green uniforms has come about following a long period of discussion with representatives of staff. Work to facilitate the transition began almost three years ago and I am delighted that from Monday 12 September, NIAS staff will be instantly recognisable by a new uniform which brings a degree of consistency with other ambulance services throughout the UK.
The change in uniform could also be said to reflect the other major changes which have been taking place throughout our Service over the past number of years. These changes, facilitated by appropriate care pathways, are designed to ensure that NIAS delivers what is best for the patient.
From Monday patients may see a different uniform but the people delivering that service are the same highly committed professionals that have would have been delivering the Service on Sunday.
I would like to place on record my personal thanks to those who have worked tirelessly in an effort to ensure that this transition to green happens as seamlessly as possible”
The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service is urging caution following an incident today when a man and two young children were struck by lightning in Lisburn.
NIAS was called to the scene, just before 2 pm today, following reports that an adult male had been struck by a bolt of lightning. A Rapid Response Paramedic was on scene in 7 minutes to find that two children had also been struck. Three A&E crews and a further 2 RRV Paramedics were sent to the scene.
The adult was taken to the nearby Lagan Valley Hospital and the two children were taken to the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children. All three are being treated for the injuries sustained and they remain in our thoughts.
As more thundery showers are forecast with the possibility of lightning we would ask people to remain very vigilant when they are out and about. If
there is a high chance of thunder storms – lightning safety advice would suggest that you stay indoors but if you are outside you should avoid open fields and hilltops. You should also stay away from tall, isolated trees. If you are in a group, spread out to avoid the current travelling between group members. You should also stay away from water and wet items as well as metal objects, which are all excellent conductors of electricity.
Ambulances have been involved in two separate Road Traffic Collisions this morning while dealing with emergency calls.
The first incident happened on the Shore Road at Whiteabbey at approximately 8:30 while the crew was responding to a non-life-threatening emergency call in Carrickfergus. The ambulance was driving on the main road when a vehicle emerged from a side road.
No-one was seriously hurt in the incident although the occupant of the car has been brought to RVH for treatment. The crew were shaken by the incident and have been given a period of downtime.
Later, at approximately 8:50 a second ambulance was en route to hospital, from Portrush, with a patient following another non-life-threatening emergency when a vehicle emerged from the side road and clipped the rear end of the ambulance sending it into a spin before ending up on its side. The patient and crew are being treated for non-life-threatening injuries at Causeway hospital.
NIAS would repeat its calls for drivers to exercise extreme caution on the roads at all times.
A paramedic with the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service has been assaulted by the patient whom he was trying to help following a 2 vehicle road traffic collision on Dublin Road, Antrim on the evening of 23 July.
The crew arrived at the scene of the incident within four minutes of being notified which is reflective of their commitment and desire to help those in need.
When the crew arrived at the scene, one person required assistance but he became verbally aggressive before punching and kicking out at the paramedic who was trying to help. The paramedic, in trying to restrain the patient and protect himself, received a hand injury with potential ligament damage to his thumb. He continued with the call, taking his assailant to hospital for further treatment, before being checked out himself – further evidence of his own personal dedication to the job he has chosen to do.
Once again the Trust finds itself in the position of having to call for stiff sentences to be given to those who assault our staff. We do not believe that any circumstances justify such assaults. Our staff are committed to helping those who have an urgent need of assistance and should be left alone to do what they do best.
An ambulance crew was assaulted and vehicle damaged as they attended a patient in Cookstown in the early hours of Sunday morning.
The crew were preparing the patient for transport to hospital when they were approached by a passer-by who appeared to be intoxicated. He began by verbally abusing the crew and then physically assaulted the Paramedic, pinning him to a wall before knocking him to the ground where he sustained injuries to the head and right hand.
The other member of the crew secured the patient safely in the ambulance and went to assist his colleague. The assailant turned his attention to the second crew member and came at him with a flurry of punches. While trying to avoid this attack, the second crew member also sustained a head injury and damaged his knee in the fall.
The assailant then left the scene and the crew checked on the patient and began reporting the incident to ambulance control. While this was happening the assailant returned, got into the driver’s seat and attempted to drive the vehicle from the scene. However, due to a security device installed in NIAS vehicles, the engine stopped as soon as the handbrake was released. The vehicle continued to roll down the incline without any effort of the intruder to prevent it from so doing and it was only as a result of the quick actions of the paramedic, who re-applied the handbrake, that the vehicle did not career into a building.
When the vehicle came to a halt, with the nearside mirror rubbing along the gable wall, the assailant then started to kick out at the equipment on the dashboard damaging the Mobile Data Terminal (MDT) screen (through which call details are relayed to crews) and the Sat Nav screen.
He again left the vehicle and the crew took the opportunity to drive from the scene to the nearby PSNI station. The assailant was arrested a short time later.
The crew waited at the PSNI station, to where another crew was despatched from Dungannon to complete the original call. The crew members themselves were taken to Antrim Area Hospital and after treatment were discharged and advised, due to the head injuries, not to drive themselves. Both members of staff are, as a result of this totally unprovoked attack, unfit for duty.
While there is a financial cost (yet to be determined) to replacing this equipment, NIAS is more concerned about the physical injury and emotional distress caused to our staff members. The Trust condemns utterly this latest attack on our crews. It is extremely frightening, in the early hours of the morning, to be faced with such naked aggression and it is not something which anyone should be asked to tolerate – especially ambulance crews who dedicate themselves to saving lives and caring for the vulnerable.
We would encourage that all those who assault ambulance crews performing their duties should face custodial sentences, regardless of excuses proffered. Our staff must feel safe when dealing with patients; their focus must be free to ensure they are providing the highest levels of clinical care to those in need.
In 2014/15 NIAS crews were either verbally or physically assaulted on 251 occasions.
The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service was subject to 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.”
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