Major project fast-tracked to protect ambulance control room staff during coronavirus crisis

6th May 2020

Press Release
6 May, 2020

The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service Health and Social Care Trust (NIAS) has worked in partnership with technology provider Northgate Public Services (NPS) and BT to safeguard frontline control room staff fielding emergency calls during the coronavirus pandemic.

Control room teams are a key part of the emergency services’ response to the crisis and it is essential to ensure everything possible is done to keep these key workers safe, enabling them to carry out their roles while adhering to social distancing rules. 

The ambulance service has up to 35 control room staff working at any time and space constraints meant its existing control room at Knockbracken Healthcare Park in south Belfast was not big enough to enable social distancing.

Demonstrating its commitment to protecting its staff and continuing to serve the public, the Trust called on control room communications technology supplier NPS as well as BT to facilitate the development of a second control room in a new building on the same site, enabling the team to be split with no more than 20 staff working safely in each room.

NPS and BT immediately responded to the challenge, fast-tracking the project to ensure communications technology, which is critical to control room operations, was installed, tested and launched in the new control room in just 13 days – an unprecedented response time for a project of this nature.

Robert Sowney, Interim Director of Operations for NIAS, said: “I would like to take the opportunity to commend NIAS staff as well as staff of NPS and BT for pulling out all the stops to deliver on what was a very challenging project in an unbelievably tight timescale.

“The health and wellbeing of our staff was paramount and having NPS and BT staff step up to the challenge and collaborate with ourselves to deliver on this project was hugely appreciated.
“I would pay a special tribute to NPS staff who wouldn’t necessarily be seen as frontline staff but were very much essential to protecting and supporting frontline staff to continue to deliver vital ambulance services to the Northern Ireland public. 

“The input of BT was equally crucial in the delivery of this project. As an emergency service, we have a long-standing relationship with BT which has been built on trust and collaborative practices and we were delighted, but not surprised, that, once again, they were able to deliver in the tightest of timescales.”

Ian Blackhurst, Executive Director, Public Service Solutions, at NPS, said: “The support provided for the rapid establishment of a second control room for Northern Ireland Ambulance Service reflects our commitment to working with vital agencies to serve the public as well as safeguarding the control room teams who are the hidden heroes of the emergency services.

“We were more than happy to support the trust in maintaining an excellent service to the public during these incredibly challenging times while also providing protection and reassurance to the control room team.

“Creating a second control room to protect employees was the best option for the trust while ensuring no reduction in service provision or quality.

“The project illustrated how we can pull out all the stops to support emergency services organisations that play such a critical role in serving the public, now more than ever.”

Paul Murnaghan, Regional Director for BT’s Enterprise division in Northern Ireland, said: “BT is delighted that we could help to facilitate the fast development of this urgent second control room to ensure that the maximum number of NIAS essential staff can continue to carry out the vital work needed to support local people and save lives during this very uncertain time. 

“The work of the NIAS is crucial during the pandemic that we all face and at BT, as the leading communications provider in Northern Ireland,  we are proud to provide our continued support to both public and private sector businesses to keep them connected to ensure that they can carry out often vital jobs as quickly and efficiently as possible.”  


For media enquiries please contact:
John Meehan, Meehan Media & Comms (on behalf of Northgate Public Services).
Tel 01482 223479 or 07803 199492.

Notes to Editors

About Northern Ireland Ambulance Service Health and Social Care Trust
Since our formation as a regional Trust in 1995, NIAS has grown significantly. We currently have 1,400 staff supported by 250 volunteer first responders and almost 100 volunteer car service drivers. Our response to calls is co-ordinated by Emergency and Non-Emergency Control Rooms, across five divisions and from 59 ambulance stations or deployment points.

We receive approximately 220,000 Emergency Calls per year and provide approximately 200,000 non-emergency journeys to and from hospital appointments or for routine treatment.

Our Service now looks very different to how it did at its inception, as a result of technological advances, developments in clinical training and scope of practice, and continuous developments in fleet and medical equipment.

Over this time, we have necessarily developed our operational responses to meet the changing healthcare needs of the population of Northern Ireland.

About Northgate Public Services
Northgate Public Services (NPS) has a proven history of creating game changing software for the public sector. Our ability to put vital information into the hands of those that need it is the reason why 95% of local authorities work with us to deliver better services. It’s why 15 different police forces have chosen our CONNECT software to improve decision making at the frontline. It’s why 200 housing providers use NPS systems to manage their two million homes efficiently and it’s why the NHS choose our technology to help them screen every baby in the UK for hearing loss. Based in the UK and working around the world, our 2,300 employees help improve the services that matter most. NPS is part of the NEC Corporation (“NEC”, TSE: 6701), a leader in the integration of IT and network technologies that benefit businesses and people worldwide.

For further information, visit

About BT 
BT’s purpose is to use the power of communications to make a better world. It is one of the world’s leading providers of communications services and solutions, serving customers in 180 countries. Its principal activities include the provision of networked IT services globally; local, national and international telecommunications services to its customers for use at home, at work and on the move; broadband, TV and internet products and services; and converged fixed-mobile products and services. BT consists of four customer-facing units: Consumer, Enterprise, Global and Openreach. 

For the year ended 31 March 2019, BT Group’s reported revenue was £23,428m with reported profit before taxation of £2,666m. 

British Telecommunications plc (BT) is a wholly-owned subsidiary of BT Group plc and encompasses virtually all businesses and assets of the BT Group. BT Group plc is listed on stock exchanges in London and New York. 
For more information, visit 


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