Topical Issues Debate – Current developments in pre-hospital services

Check against delivery

Speech by Minister for Health Dr. Leo Varadkar in a Topical Issue Debate  – Current developments in pre-hospital services, both nationally and in Roscommon.

I want to thank the Deputy for raising this issue today. I am pleased to  outline to the House current developments in pre-hospital services, both nationally and in Roscommon.

The National Ambulance Service (NAS) is working to ensure high quality and timely emergency pre-hospital care, using all available resources as effectively and as efficiently as possible.  As with any pre-hospital service, development and modernisation is a continuous process, as technology and clinical standards change.

A significant and ongoing reform programme has been underway in recent years. In 2015, an additional €5.4 million has been provided to improve technology and clinical audit, and to address service gaps, particularly in the west.

It is important to acknowledge that progress is being made.  The single national control system, now almost fully operational, is improving our control and dispatch performance.  We are continuing to develop the Intermediate Care Service (ICS), which transports patients between facilities, thus allowing emergency vehicles to focus on emergency calls.  The ICS now carries three quarters of the non-emergency workload.  We are also moving to more efficient on-duty rostering and developing a national rostering system.  50 additional paramedics are being allocated in the West this year to achieve this.

Services in Roscommon have been enhanced significantly since 2011.  Roscommon Town currently has three emergency ambulances during the day and two at night, as well as a 24/7 rapid response vehicle, crewed by an advanced paramedic.

It is important to say that we are changing our model of service delivery.  We are moving away from the model of care where services are provided locally from a fixed ambulance base in that area.  We are moving to dynamic deployment, where all resources are deployed as a fleet across a region.

Within the wider region, the Roscommon area is supported from the north by Boyle and Carrick on Shannon, from the east by Longford and Mullingar and from the south by Athlone.   New service capacity in Tuam and Mulranny stations will enhance the coverage across north Galway, west Roscommon and east Mayo.

The Deputy will be pleased to know that refurbishment of the ambulance station in Loughglynn, where ambulances can be based during shifts, is now complete, and staffing issues are being progressed.  The NAS expects that the station will be operational in the coming months.

For Roscommon and the surrounding region, we also have the Emergency Aeromedical Service (EAS), based in Athlone.  The EAS allows swift transfers of seriously ill or injured patients to the most appropriate hospital.  Over 1,000 missions have been completed since June 2012.  Counties Roscommon and Mayo have among the highest numbers of EAS transfers.

These are all significant achievements.  However, we intend further improve the service.  Next month, I expect to receive the independent capacity review, to determine current and future service needs.  Areas being examined include staff numbers and skill mix, as well as resources and deployment locations.

I am confident that these reforms and reviews will lead to further improvements in our pre-hospital emergency care services, to the benefit of the people of Roscommon and the rest of Ireland.