Roll-out of Maggie’s Call in rural areas suspended over legal concerns

Maggie’s Call, an initiative that would see NIFRS co-respond to cardiac calls in rural areas, alongside Northern Ireland Ambulance Service, has been suspended following legal advice.

Just last week, Health Minister Robin Swann announced the roll-out of the scheme, beginning with firefighters at Carnlough station.

The initiative came about after the heartbreaking death of little Maggie Black.

Five-year-old Maggie, from Glenarm, passed away last December and, following her death, the Black family launched a petition – Maggie’s Call – asking for NIFRS to be automatically dispatched to emergency medical calls in rural areas.

Chief Fire & Rescue Office Peter O’Reilly, along with Health Minister Robin Swann and NIAS Chief Executive Michael Bloomfield met with Sheenagh and Brian, parents of Maggie Black, this morning. Today marks the beginning of a phased rollout of firefighters being trained to co-respond to incidents in rural areas, beginning with On-Call Firefighters from Carnlough Fire Station.

North Antrim MLA Mervyn Storey noted the roll-out had been suspended by the chief fire officer after receiving legal advice.

Mr Storey said this is of “great concern, given the publicity around the issue and its importance”.

During minister’s questions in the assembly, Mr Swann confirmed he was aware of the correspondence in relation to legal issues raised by the Fire Brigades Union.

He commented: “It’s unfortunate that it would stall what has been, I think, a very proactive campaign by Maggie Black’s family and a willingness in the Carnlough brigade and the station as well to roll that out as quickly as possible.”

The Health Minister said he could give an assurance that adequate training would be given as it was the NIAS who were providing that, specifically for cardiac response.

Mr Swann said the chairs of both organisations were “working together to make sure that both were satisfied that, what was being provided, was up to a standard that provided them with the reassurances as boards, that they could provide me with that reassurance that they were content with what is the aim of Maggie’s Call, to make sure we can get people seen as quickly as possible”.