The closure of the Red Cross ambulance support service will further increase pressure on the Ambulance Service, according to East Antrim MLA Roy Beggs.
The charity said its contracted patient transport service is no longer financially viable and will come to an end in April. More than 20 members of staff will be affected by the move. The decision has led to “anger and upset” among staff, ambulance union GMB has stated.
Mr Beggs, UUP health spokesman, said: “The decision has also now heaped further pressure on a local ambulance service which is already close to breaking point. It is no exaggeration to say that many patients would have suffered and would not have received appropriate health care without the backup support from charities such as the Red Cross.
“The loss of these additional supporting ambulances and paramedics means that a sparse service will have to be spread even more thinly. It will likely contribute to patients having to wait in hospital longer for transfers, as well as NIAS staff finding it more difficult to respond to all emergency calls. The importance of ambulances and paramedics arriving on time simply cannot be emphasised enough. The longer someone has to wait for assistance in an emergency the greater the risk there is of them coming to serious and lasting harm.
“I hope to soon meet with the Red Cross, their local staff and trade union representatives on this matter. In the meantime I would urge the Department of Health and local Health and Social Care Trusts to consider whether there is anything that they can do, even on a temporary basis, to ensure that this important service is not lost.”