More than 2,000 wait an hour for ambulance


Owen Evans

MORE than 2,000 people who called an ambulance in Flintshire and Wrexham last year had to wait more than an hour for one to arrive.

Delays in ambulance ‘first responses’ in the region were revealed in new figures released yesterday.

‘First responses’ to call-outs – the time between the emergency call and the first ambulance service presence arriving on the scene – took more than an hour on just over 2,000 occasions in the two counties in 2013.

The figures relate to the time taken for any Ambulance Service personnel to arrive on the scene, and not necessarily an emergency ambulance.

The figures, revealed after a Freedom of Information request by the Welsh Conservatives, show that 1,075 ‘first response’ arrivals took more than an hour in Flintshire, with the figure standing at 929 in Wrexham.

The revelation has come a week after the Leader revealed that more than 17,000 patients waited longer than they should have in ambulances outside Wrexham Maelor Hospital and Glan Clwyd Hospital, Bodelwyddan last year.

Almost 60 patients were waiting outside the hospitals for at least four hours.
Welsh Conservative shadow health minister Darren Millar said the figures made “hugely distressing reading”.

Mr Millar said: “There are deeply ingrained problems within our emergency care services and these figures lay bare their true extent.

“Despite the hard work of frontline staff, more evidence of severe delays and unacceptable waits make for hugely distressing reading.

“No one should be left hanging around for this long after dialling 999, especially in life-threatening situations.”

In Wales overall, 28,000 first responses took more than one hour, with 77 responses recorded as taking between 10 to 15 hours and one in a timeframe of 15 to 20 hours.

The statistics revealed that in Wales, 321 of the responses which took more than an hour were classed as ‘category A’ calls – those deemed to be immediately life threatening.

Government targets state 65 per cent of these calls are expected to receive an ambulance response within eight minutes.

The figures also showed the nature of calls which did not get a ‘first response’ for more than an hour.

These included 2,263 cases of ‘falls’, 264 cases of ‘haemorrhage/laceration’, 226 of breathing problems and 736 of overdose or poisoning.

Mike Collins, director of service delivery at the Welsh Ambulance Service, said: “The emergency healthcare system across Wales is facing unparalleled pressure and demand from 999 calls on our service is increasing every year.

“We recognise that on occasions our ambulances are delayed, but we are working as hard as we can to get to patients as quickly as possible.

“The challenges facing our staff and others working in the NHS should not be underestimated and we commend the efforts of our committed workforce.”

Mr Collins added that resolving handover delays were a priority, and that alternative methods of care such as alternative care pathways, and advanced paramedic practitioners, who have specialist training for treating people at the scene or at home, are used.

A Welsh Government spokesman said: “We expect all patients to receive an appropriate response in a timely manner, determined by their clinical need.

“We expect health boards to work closely with the ambulance service to ensure patients receive the care they require.

“The ambulance service receives more than 350,000 emergency calls a year and without looking into the individual cases it is not possible to understand why 321 of the category A calls were responded to in more than an hour. This represents substantially less than 0.1 per cent of all emergency calls.”

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