Page last updated at 13:42 GMT, Thursday, 10 September 2009 14:42 UK

Minister approves ambulance plans

Northern Ireland Ambulance Service vehicle
The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service has welcomed the Minister's decision

The Health Minister Michael McGimpsey has approved plans by the Ambulance Service for the introduction of 26 new rapid response vehicles.

The Ambulance Service says the proposal will result in around 66,000 more paramedic hours.

It comes following last year's announcement of a £100m investment in ambulance vehicles.

However Sinn Fein has condemned the decision and said RRVs should not be a substitute for full ambulance cover.

Rapid response vehicles (RRVs) are designed to carry one paramedic, the driver, to a patient who requires life-saving help.

However some ambulance drivers have said they are wary of using them because they are unable to transport a patient to hospital.

Sinn Fein MLA, Michelle O'Neill, who is a member of the Assembly health committee, said the Minister had "given the green light to a loss of ambulance provision."

"The proposed additional hours and the introduction of Rapid Response Vehicles will not compensate for the loss of ambulance cover or the lost capacity getting injured people to hospital quickly and safely," she said.

Like the other health trusts, the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service is making three per cent efficiency savings.

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