Planned ambulance cover in Belfast on New Year’s Eve has been reduced by 50 per cent.
Some frontline staff are isolating due to Covid-19 symptoms or close contact with positive cases.
The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) normally has seven crews rostered for night shifts across four stations in the city.
It said: “On the night of 31 December 2020, that planned cover has been reduced by 50% (3.5 crews).”
Emergency cover will be complemented by one support crew and ten voluntary/private ambulance service crews (VAS/PAS).
Ambulance control will also, at the beginning of the shift, look at all available resources and attempt to increase the 3.5 crews to four by crewing up staff from another station.
The emergency service added: “The NIAS accident and emergency support and the VAS/PAS crews will be targeted to those less urgent calls which do not require clinical intervention, such as GP urgent calls and inter-hospital transfers, thereby protecting the emergency crew for those patients with the greatest clinical need.
“In addition to these measures, emergency ambulance control will use all available resources from neighbouring stations and across the region to ensure that we continue to provide the quickest possible response to the sickest patients.”
It urged the public to consider all other alternatives (self-care, GP out of hours, “dial first” initiatives where locally available or self-transportation to hospital) before calling 999.
“However, if you have a genuine need of a 999 response, please call immediately.
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“We would also ask for your patience if the call is not answered immediately by ambulance control.
“Please do not hang up as you will delay a response. We will speak with you as soon as we can.
“We would also ask that our staff, who will be working extremely hard tonight, be given space to carry out their duties and treated with the respect they deserve.”