Just how bad were Wales’ worst-ever ambulance waits?

Ambulance response times have reached life-endangering heights as new data shows just how long Welsh patients are having to wait for one.

A Freedom of Information request from Senedd Conservatives uncovered a breakdown in ambulance response times for September 2022, revealing that 73 red-calls for life-threatening emergencies took over half an hour to be reached, with one taking over an hour.

30 of these occurred in North Wales’ Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board (HB), which is also where the hour-long wait occurred. Dyfed’s Hywel Dda HB had 17 patients waiting between 30 and 60 minutes.

That month saw only 50% of red-calls reach their patient within eight-minutes – the worst on record – against a 65% target set out by the Labour Government in Cardiff Bay, not reached for two years.

However, there was worse to come in relation to amber calls. These are not classified as life-threatening, yet include very serious conditions such strokes.

4,046 amber patients had to wait over three hours to reach the scene for ambulances to reach the scene. Of these, 1,310 took over five hours, meaning 9% of amber calls in Wales took over 360 minutes to arrive at the scene.

This was most acute in North Wales, with 1,169 waiting over three hours, 423 of these waited over five hours. For other health boards, Gwent’s Aneurin Bevan HB recorded 753 amber calls taking over three hours, while four of the other five had 400-600 such waits.

The revelations come after a Welsh Conservative debate where they called for an end to the system where strokes are not considered for red-call ambulances dispatches.

Commenting, Welsh Conservative Shadow Health Minister Russell George MS said:

“The crisis affecting Welsh hospitals extends far beyond the buildings themselves as a shortage of beds and staff means overcrowded A&E departments and queues of ambulances outside, resulting in unacceptably long waits for emergency vehicles, something people do not ask for lightly.

“None of this is the fault of hardworking ambulance technicians but poor planning from the Labour Government – do not forget that the last health minister said it would be ‘foolish’ to publish a plan for recovery while the pandemic was still on-going. Now we are all paying the price.

“To generate faster ambulance responses, we must tackle the causes of the delays at source – this means less congested A&E departments and making progress on the treatment backlog, where one-fifth of the Welsh population lie – with winter war rooms and surgical hubs.

“This is the cost of Labour, and now Mark Drakeford needs to get a grip on the NHS and stop breaking all the wrong records.”

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