LOCAL patients with life-threatening emergencies are having to wait the longest for an ambulance in Northern Ireland, it has been revealed.
In the Northern Board, which includes the Cookstown and Magherafelt districts, as many as four in ten emergency ambulances failed to reach the patient within the eight minute target time.
During July of last year, just 56.6 percent of local emergency ambulances arrived within the target time, the lowest percentage for any health board in the province.
In fact, for seven months in 2013, the local health board consistently failed to reach its national target of 67.5% of emergency ambulances arriving within the target time.
The latest figures released by the Northern Ireland Assembly revealed a wide variation in response times in different districts.
Belfast ambulances had the best response times in Northern Ireland with as much as 85% of emergency ambulances hitting their target response time.
The South Eastern Board ambulances had the next worst response times with as few as 57% meeting the target time.
From April 2011, the Northern Ireland target is that an average of 72.5% of Category A calls should be responded to within eight minutes – and not less than 65% in any health trust area.
It is believed that the ambulance wait figures are further evidence of serious pressures within Northern Ireland’s health system following the closure of a number of accident and emergency units.
The increasing pressure on the remaining acute hospitals is one factor influencing ambulance response times. Many patients have to spend longer travelling in ambulances getting to hospitals from rural areas.