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Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

NIAS apologise for delayed ambulance response to Forkhill accident

The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service has apologised to a Forkhill man who waited for two and a half hours at the roadside for an ambulance to arrive after a bike accident left him unconscious and bleeding.

Local shop manager, Sean Toner, was travelling on his bicycle along the Carrickasticken Road in Forkhill on 27th June when the accident occurred around 6.15pm.  Having gone over the handlebars of the bike, Mr Toner says his head took the brunt of the fall, rendering him unconscious.  A first responder who quickly rushed to the scene, arriving at around 6.45pm, checked Mr Toner’s vitals, injuries and cognition regularly while awaiting paramedics.

In a letter written to the Department of Health outlining his ordeal, the Forkhill man commended the first responder for his actions.

“He continually assessed me and kept myself and my family calm too,” he said. 

“It was clear though that he was worried about spinal damage, a possible brain injury, the severity of my wounds and also the fact that I was very disorientated the whole time.”  

According to Mr Toner, the first responder expressed his concerns about his condition and told him he needed to get to A & E as soon as possible – however the ambulance did not arrive until 8.45pm, some two and a half hours later.

“When the ambulance arrived, I was very swiftly taken to Daisy Hill Hospital and the paramedics and medical team worked quickly and efficiently to assess my injuries. I received full scans to ensure there was no brain injury and my wounds were attended to.”

Despite suffering a broken nose, severe concussion and needing 20 stitches in his face, Mr Toner says he was extremely lucky not to have sustained serious injury, thanks to wearing his helmet, “and also because I had great first responders on the scene immediately.” 

“Due to the mechanism of my injury, it’s clear any number of complications could have arisen in the 180 minutes that the first responder would not have been equipped to deal with,” he added.

“The collision with the road could have caused a brain haemorrhage resulting in a traumatic brain injury or fatality, or how I fell may have resulted in a spinal fracture or spinal cord injury.” 

The store manager said the thought of the same thing happening to another cyclist or pedestrian without immediate medical attention was “terrifying” and added,

“I understand that our health system is under pressure but waiting for an ambulance for 2 and 1/2 hours at the side of the road with a head injury is unacceptable. Emergency services are an essential requirement in my area of South Armagh. Thankfully my injuries were not life threatening, but they could have been and this accident was not a freak accident – these types of accidents happen daily. If the ambulance service continues to be underfunded, under-resourced and understaffed, common accidents like mine or worse will end in fatality.”

Thankfully Mr Toner says his recovery was very good at Daisy Hill and he is back on his feet again.

A Northern Ireland Ambulance Service spokesperson told The Examiner that based on information provided to the call-taker, the 999 call was determined to be Category B, (serious but not immediately life-threatening), which NIAS seek to respond to within 21 minutes.

“NIAS immediately despatched a Rapid Response Paramedic to the scene, who, on arrival, undertook assessment and initial treatment of the patient,” said the spokesperson.

“A conveyancing ambulance was requested to take the patient to hospital. However, due to ambulances being involved in other emergency calls within the area, NIAS was unable to provide this transport until 8.15pm.

“The conveyancing ambulance arrived at 20:49 and the patient was taken to Daisy Hill Hospital.”

The NIAS spokesperson apologised to Mr Toner for the delay in transporting him to hospital, and cited a year on year increase in demand for ambulance services.

“The number of calls to the Ambulance Service has increased from 150,093 in 2012/13, to 220,090 in 2017/18, an increase of 46%,” the statement revealed.

“In order to address this deteriorating position, NIAS has undertaken a detailed demand and capacity analysis which has established the level of additional capacity required to meet demand within the target timescales, and is developing proposals for a new clinical response model to provide the most urgent response to the most clinically urgent patients. This proposed new model is based on similar models introduced elsewhere in the UK which have proved effective and indicate improved patient outcomes. We expect to undertake a public consultation on this proposed new model in the near future.

“NIAS would advise that anyone who has an emergency clinical need for our service to contact us immediately on 999. However, if your need is not immediate, i.e. neither life threatening nor serious, please consider a range of other treatments, including self-care, pharmacy, GP, or self-transport to the Emergency Department.”