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HSC News Stories

NIAS Consultation on Fleet Strategy 2020 – 2025 Preparing for our Future

We wish to engage with you on our updated Fleet Strategy proposals which has today been published both externally on the NIAS website and internally on SharePoint.  The Fleet Strategy has been developed to compliment and support the implementation of the Trust’s Strategy to Transform.  In addition to describing our fleet replacement programme the Strategy sets out how we will ensure our fleet has the right profile to support effective provision of service whilst reducing our impact on the environment over the coming years.

We want to hear your views and opinions and invite you to respond to our consultation by completing and returning our Fleet Strategy consultation engagement feedback questions which can be found alongside the Fleet Strategy Engagement document on the links below:

 Fleet Strategy Engagement Document

 Fleet Strategy - Engagement Questions V0.3

Our preference would be for written responses to be submitted by email to mignonne.smith@nias.hscni.net

The closing date for receipt of responses is Wednesday 12 May 2021.

As a key stakeholder, your opinions are important to us and I look forward to receiving your responses to this important strategy document.


We must fix our appalling waiting lists – together (NIAS Rebuild Plan April 2021-June 2021)

Health Minister Robin Swann has detailed his ambitions for the re-building of Northern Ireland’s health service, while stressing the need for sustained investment to deliver the plans.

In a keynote statement to the Assembly, the Minister said: “I am absolutely determined to put this right. But as I will argue today, I cannot do this alone. I need the support of this House and my Executive colleagues if we are to address our absolutely dire waiting lists.”

Mr Swann informed MLAs that detailed plans are being finalised on both waiting times and cancer care. These will shortly be issued for public consultation, as will a review of urgent and emergency care.

Today also sees the publication of the latest Trust rebuilding plans for health and social care, covering the period April to June.

The Health Minister said the COVID-19 pandemic has had a “significant impact” on “our already appalling waiting lists”. It had also “highlighted serious long established fragilities in our health and social care system, especially in terms of staffing capacity”.

He told the Assembly: “Our health service prides itself on being available to all, free at the point of access. I will today contend that we are in grave danger of undermining this essential feature of our health service. With ever growing waiting lists – I would question whether all of our citizens have adequate access to the health services they need?”

The Minister continued: “To address this burning issue, I will in the near future be publishing for consultation a cancer recovery plan, an elective care framework and the urgent and emergency care review. Our great staff want us to be ambitious about the future of health and social care.

“They want us to build back better, to learn the lessons of the pandemic in terms of capacity, resilience and investment. I share that ambition 100 per cent. I believe the people of Northern Ireland do too.

“However, without a significant and recurrent funding commitment from the Executive, I fear that we will be severely restricted in our ability to deliver. We will be fighting the scourge of waiting lists with at least one hand tied behind our backs.

“We must start putting this right. It is a long-term task and it needs long-term, recurrent funding.”

Describing the current single year budgetary position as “extremely disappointing”, Mr Swann stated: “The present funding model which we operate within is not fit for purpose. What is really needed is a multi-year budget and unfortunately the Executive hasn’t received this from Westminster.”

He continued: “To properly put waiting lists right, we will clearly need more staff in our health service. But how can you recruit additional people to the workforce if there’s no certainty you’ll have the money to keep paying them next year?

“How do you sign up more young people for the required years of training on the basis of single year funding?

“I recognise there are many pressing rival demands on the public purse in Northern Ireland. Huge issues face every Department. I fully accept that the Executive has limited room for manoeuvre in budget terms. Decisions are taken in London and we have to play the cards we are dealt.

“However, I cannot think of a more pressing issue facing us than waiting times. It cries out for action. It is a daily rebuke to the standing of this House and to the reputation of politics.

“It leaves thousands and thousands of our people in avoidable pain – our fellow citizens, our neighbours. We owe it to them to do much, much better.”

The Trust rebuilding plans include elective (planned) care being prioritised regionally. Mr Swann told MLAs elective surgery will be prioritised in line with greatest clinical need, and will not be dependent on a patient’s postcode.

Detailing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Minister said: “It was not lockdown that added to waiting lists and led to much-needed operations being postponed. It was the virus. Our system, like systems all over the world, simply could not maintain a normal service, given the surge in patients requiring life-saving and immediate intervention. Staff had to be redeployed. Agonising choices had to be made.

“This was not about prioritising one condition over another. It was about providing care to the sickest patients quickest. It was about maintaining ICU care for everyone who required it, COVID and non COVID patients alike.”

In relation to cancer treatments impacted by the pandemic, the Minister said “the vast majority of patients that experienced a delay from January to March this year have since had their treatment completed or have a confirmed plan in place”.

Mr Swann also detailed actions taken to protect elective services as much as possible. These have included establishing Northern Ireland’s first regional Day Procedure Centre at Lagan Valley Hospital.  This Day Procedure Centre has been providing support for the region, particularly for urgent cancer diagnostic work.

Similarly, surgeons from across Northern Ireland have been travelling to the South West Acute Hospital in Enniskillen to provide surgery that could not be provided at other sites due to the numbers of COVID positive inpatients. Northern Ireland-wide regional approaches to the prioritisation of surgery and to orthopaedic surgery have also been progressed.

The Cancer Recovery Plan being finalised is entitled “Building Back; Rebuilding Better”. It will make recommendations to redress the disruption to cancer services caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Recovery Plan will be aligned with the longer-term Cancer Strategy being developed for NI and will focus on a three year period.

In addition, an elective care framework will be published shortly. The purpose of this framework is to set out both the immediate and longer term actions and funding requirements needed to tackle waiting lists.

The Minister said that while one-off emergency COVID funds “cannot provide the long-term fix that our health service requires”, they have proved vital over the past 12 months. He confirmed plans for cancer and mental health funds, as well as a carers fund and an allocation to support staff within Trusts. Further details of these allocations will be provided in the coming days.

“All of these allocations have been made possible as a result of the one-off Covid funds made available to Northern Ireland in 2020/21. I would of course love to be able to allocate further funding, on a recurrent basis, to all these areas. But as ever, available recurrent funding is not keeping up with levels of demand and need,”the Minister added.

Click here to access the NIAS Rebuild Plan April 2021-June 2021.


JOINT STATEMENT BY THE CHIEF EXECUTIVES OF NORTHERN IRELAND'S SIX HEALTH AND SOCIAL CARE TRUSTS

In early December 2020 we issued what we described at the time as ‘a stark warning’ about huge pressures across the health and social care system in Northern Ireland.
At that time we stressed that several of Northern Ireland’s acute hospitals were already operating beyond capacity. Within days, the pressure that the system was under was evident through the images shown across media outlets of multiple ambulances queuing outside Emergency Departments. We also highlighted that there was a very real risk that hospitals could be overwhelmed in the event of a further COVID-19 spike in January.
Although different parts of the country are in different stages of the third COVID-19 surge, and individual hospitals are reflecting this, the situation is very serious with modelling projections indicating that in the third week in January we will be trying to contend with double the number of COVID positive patients compared to the current position today, when several hospitals already have record numbers of patients.
This is not a simple matter of putting up more beds. We need the staff to care for the increased number of patients. Pre-existing staffing pressures and staff absence because of COVID, and other reasons, mean that those staff simply aren’t there.
Already several Trusts are having to stand down all but the most urgent elective surgery, including some red-flag cancer surgery, to redeploy staff to meet the urgent and immediate needs of extremely ill patients, especially both COVID and non-COVID patients needing ICU care. These postponed operations will be rescheduled as soon as possible. We have established a regional approach to ensure that any available theatre capacity across Northern Ireland is allocated for those patients most in need of surgery, both during surge and as we come out of this surge. This may mean that patients will need to travel further for their surgery. Cancer services are seeking to maintain chemotherapy, radiotherapy and other non-surgical treatments and alternative treatments will be provided in the absence of surgical options.
We know that we speak for all health and social care staff in assuring the public that we will do everything that we possibly can to deal with the situation that is unfolding. Our staff, although exhausted, will once more go above and beyond to do the best they can for as many people as possible, and we thank them for it. It will definitely not be easy and the care that we are able to provide will at times fall short of the high standards we normally deliver but we will do our very best. Desperately ill patients whether COVID or non-COVID will always be the ones being prioritised.
No-one should be attending an Emergency Department at any time unless they need emergency care. It is likely that those who do attend will wait longer to be seen and for admission to hospital if that is what they require. Patients arriving by ambulance will also wait at times, sometimes for many hours before space is available in an already over-stretched ED. This has a direct impact on the ability of the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service to respond, in a timely manner, to life threatening emergencies in the community.
Patients also need to leave hospital as soon as they are medically fit to leave. We will work tirelessly to ensure that this happens. That might mean accepting a placement where it is available and it might also mean families having to go the extra mile to provide temporary support for relatives. But we will need every bed that we have for those that are most in need.
Pressure in one part of the health and social care system inevitably impacts on the other parts. For example, we might once again need families to be willing to fill unavoidable gaps in domiciliary care.
Never has the phrase ‘all in it together’ been so pertinent and just so important. The COVID-19 vaccines provide the long-term hope and the current lockdown offers the opportunity to shorten the duration of the current surge. The public can play their part too by staying at home, practising social distancing and good hand hygiene and wearing face coverings.
We thank you in advance for your assistance

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.

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.


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.