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DUP South Antrim MLA and Vice-Chair of Stormont’s Health Committee Pam Cameron has pressed the Health Minister to ensure the needs of the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service are front and centre as Trusts make preparations for the Covid-19 recovery as well as plan for any second surge of the virus.

Commenting, Mrs Cameron said:

‘‘Since the onset of Covid-19 local ambulance crews and staff have faced the mammoth task of balancing normal call demand with additional pressures associated with this deadly virus. Many have worked extended hours and sacrificed annual leave to ensure service was not lost in their communities. Without this skill and dedication, we can be certain that many more people in Northern Ireland would have tragically lost their lives during this time.

Our Province may have weathered the storm of the first wave of Covid-19 but the same cannot be said of the Ambulance Service. As routine demand starts to increase - and social distancing continues to limit capacity and handover times at emergency departments - the stark reality is that operating challenges facing ambulance crews and staff are only set to rise.

Recent NIAS warnings of anticipated drops in call-out cover and response times are deeply worrying but these outcomes should not be inevitable.

The best way to repay the professionalism of our ambulance crews is to ensure they receive appropriate resource and strategic support to provide a responsive and effective service to local communities. For these reasons I have written to the Minister of Health urging him to ensure the needs of NIAS are at the core of his Department’s plans to rebuild health and social care services and plan for a potential second waves in the winter. I would call on him to give these issues urgent consideration in the days ahead.’’