HSE plan to take ambulance duty from Dublin Fire Brigade criticised by TDs

Proposal seen as ‘utterly wrong’ and existing service defended as best option

Public representatives from across Dublin have expressed opposition to a HSE plan to take control of the city's ambulances from Dublin Fire Brigade (DFB), which has provided the service since 1889.

The plan, revealed in The Irish Times yesterday , was drawn up by the HSE in March 2013 ahead of last month's announcement of a HSE/ Dublin City Council review of Dublin's ambulance service. The joint review was announced last month to look at patient care and value for money, and is due to be completed by the end of May.

Formal service
The confidential internal HSE plan says that in the absence of a formal service level agreement between the HSE and the city council for the ambulance service in the capital, the HSE is "constrained in its plans to develop an integrated national ambulance service, has inadequate control over the almost €10 million it contributes to the cost of running the ambulance service. Given the above deficits [Dublin's ambulances]...should now be provided by the HSE."

The plan says HSE funding should be incrementally withdrawn from the city council with full HSE control of ambulances to be achieved by the end of 2015.


DFB mainly provides the ambulance service in Dublin under Dublin City Council while the HSE provides the ambulance service outside Dublin. The HSE contributes €9.4 million a year towards the €11 million cost of the ambulance service in Dublin, out of a national ambulance budget of €134 million. DFB responds to 28 per cent of 999 ambulance calls nationally.*

Siptu held an emergency meeting with DFB convenors yesterday morning and is now calling for the abandonment of the HSE-DCC review. Brendan O’Brien, industrial organiser, said it was clear “the HSE have already decided the outcome of the review”.

“Our members are calling for . . . the recommendations of previous joint HSE-DCC reviews be implemented, which included the provision of appropriate service level agreements and direct funding to be put in place.”

Dublin TDs and councillors have described the HSE plan as “utterly wrong”, “very concerning” and “pre-emptive”.

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett said it was clear DFB provided "far and away the best ambulance service in the State if not these islands and to even think of allowing the HSE in to take it over would be utterly wrong".

Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD said Sinn Féin would oppose any plans to remove the ambulance services from the control of DFB, while Independent TD Maureen O'Sullivan said it would be a "great pity" if the HSE were to take control of the capital's ambulances.

“We all know in Dublin the great service that is provided by the fire brigade and it would seem to me that yet again the HSE is threatening something that is working.”

Joe Higgins, Socialist Party TD, said he would be "suspicious" the HSE plan was part of a "wider agenda of cuts and austerity" and Independent Finian McGrath said he had a "major objection to this HSE plan".

Clare Daly TD said she would be "very concerned" if the HSE were to take over the Dublin ambulance service.

Dublin city councillor Brid Smith called for the abandonment of the joint HSE-DCC review, seeing it as a "ruse to allow the transfer of the ambulance service from DFB to the HSE".

Labour councillor Niall Ring has tabled an emergency motion to be heard at the council's finance committee tomorrow, calling for a rejection of "any attempt by the HSE to take control of Dublin's ambulance service" and calling for a formal service level agreement for the continued provision of the service by DFB between the council and the HSE.

* This article was edited on March 19th

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland is Social Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times