MP questions ambulance response times

Penarth Times: An ambulance responds to an emergency call (6818820) An ambulance responds to an emergency call (6818820)

VALE MP Alun Cairns has criticised the Welsh Government after newly released figures showed just over half of ambulances met emergency response deadlines.

The Welsh Government has responded by saying the figures were “disappointing” – pointing the finger at the ambulance service and health board.

But the Welsh Ambulance Service has hit back by saying staff are working hard to get patients seen as quickly as possible and problems faced by the service are being tackled.

The Welsh Government reported 57 percent of ambulances responding to emergency calls across Barry and the Vale within the target 8 minutes during April.

Mr Cairns, who has campaigned for improved ambulance cover, highlighted a number of local cases where a delayed response could have been a matter of life or death.

He recently worked a night shift with police in Barry and said he had experienced an urgent ambulance call that took one hour and five minutes to arrive.

Mr Cairns said: “Ambulance targets have been missed 21 months of the last 22, while response times here in Barry and Vale raise serious concerns. The chances of survival for a patient requiring emergency treatment are dramatically improved if the right care can be given quickly and too many patients in the Vale are not getting seen quickly enough.

“At my recent night shift with South Wales Police on one incident I attended it took one hour and 5 minutes for the ambulance to arrive, despite several calls to the control room. This was an outrageous risk to the individual concerned as their health deteriorated in the time. In addition there was the loss of resource to the community – three police officers were tied up waiting.

“Quite clearly that is unacceptable and again these figures show little is being done to improve the situation.

“Despite the best efforts of ambulance staff and crews, response times continue to decline in the Vale and it’s clear that urgent action must be taken by the health minister to tackle the issue.

“I will continue to press the matter with the Welsh Government. This cannot continue.”

A Welsh Government spokesman said: “These figures are disappointing. We expect Cardiff and Vale University Health Board to work closely with the ambulance service to ensure patients receive the care they require when they need it.”

Mike Collins, The Welsh Ambulance Service's director of service delivery, defended the record, saying the Welsh Ambulance Service took 35,192 calls via 999 in April, more than a third of which (13,979 calls) were of the most serious in nature.

He said: “We recognise that on occasion we are short of the eight-minute target for the most serious calls, but are working as hard as we can to get to patients as quickly as possible.

“Resolving handover delays at hospitals remains a number one priority, and we continue to work with our colleagues in all seven Local Health Boards to ensure patients are handed over as safely and as quickly as possible so that our staff are available in the community for the next 999 call.”

He said the Trust was using other methods to reduce unnecessary hospital admissions including Alternative Care Pathways, a system designed to make better use of community-based services and advanced paramedic practitioners to provide a wider range of specialist healthcare at the scene of an incident or at a patient’s home.”

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