Ambulance hub plans revealed

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Plans to introduce a new ‘clinical response model’ for the Ambulance Service could result in Mid Ulster having a central hub located at Desertcreat, near Cookstown.

The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service Health and Social Care Trust is currently consulting with councils across the Province and recently outlined its plans to Mid Ulster Council.

They are expected to report back on the proposed response model later this year.

Mid Ulster is currently served by ambulance crews based in depots at Cookstown, Dungannon and Magherafelt. In the past concerns have been raised by politicians about the district having the lowest performance in relation to ambulance response times.

In their reply to the consultation, the local council said Mid Ulster residents are also “doubly penalised” as the travel time to a hospital with major injury treatment capabilities is over eight minutes longer than the Northern Ireland average.

They stressed that this situation was totally unacceptable and could no longer be tolerated.

“This new response model, if appropriately resourced and implemented, has the potential to help to address this issue and provide disadvantaged rural areas such as Mid Ulster with the safe and equitable service its residents have been deprived of for far too long.”

Ulster Unionist Councillor Trevor Wilson said it was vital that the ambulance service in the district was retained and enhanced.

“The difficulty we face in Mid Ulster is its rurality and any move towards downgrading the current service could have a serious impact,” he said.

“Ambulance crews are to be commended for the work that they do in often difficult and challenging circumstances.”