Welsh Government urged to take action after ‘worst on record’ ambulance and A&E waiting times
The Welsh Government has been urged to “get a grip” and improve NHS waiting times after the Welsh Ambulance Service recorded its worst ever response times.
The plea from opposition parties comes as more than 1,000 ambulance workers across Wales are staging industrial action as part of their fight for better pay and improved working conditions for staff.
Around 1,500 ambulance workers represented by GMB union and thousands of nurses are also set to strike in the coming weeks.
Figures released today once show the sheer demand that Welsh NHS staff continue to face, with December seeing the worst ambulance response times and emergency department waiting times on record.
December 27 has been described as one of the busiest days in the history of the Welsh health service, with 550 people admitted to hospital on that day alone.
Just 39.5% of red calls made to the Welsh Ambulance Service received an emergency response within eight minutes in December, after a fifth consecutive monthly dip in performance.
These figures are the trust’s worst on record and coincidence with the highest number of red calls ever made in a month.
Around 5,949 immediately life threatening calls were made to the ambulance service in December, equating to 14.6% of all calls.
Overall 40,800 emergency calls were made to the service – an average of 1,317 calls per day.
Emergency departments across Wales also experienced exceptional demand during December, with an average of 2,847 attendances per day.
Overall there were 88,200 attendances to all NHS Wales emergency departments.
The Welsh Government have a target of 95% of all attendees spend less than for hours in emergency departments from arrival until admission, transfer or discharge.
63.1% of patients in all NHS emergency departments spent less than the target time in the department from arrival until admission, transfer or discharge.
This was 4.2 percentage points lower than the previous month and the lowest on record.
Today’s figures have led to widespread criticism from opposition parties, who have urged the Welsh Government to “get a grip” on what has been branded a “crisis” in the NHS.
Welsh Conservative and Shadow Health Minister Russell George MS, said: “These are another dire set of figures that only serve to highlight the daily suffering in the Labour-run NHS in Wales where patient safety is at risk and staff morale is utterly broken.
“How can anyone have any confidence in the Labour Government in Cardiff Bay to resolve the issues facing the NHS like access to GPs and dentists and solving strikes when both emergency and elective care on their watch is crumbling?
“I know this is a difficult situation across many nations, but we must remember, that on Labour’s watch, Wales has been left in a worse position – we’ve just recorded the worst A&E and ambulance response times on record and we have Britain’s longest waiting list.
“Labour need to get a grip on the NHS and stop breaking all the wrong records.”
Rhun ap Iorwerth MS said, Plaid Cymru’s spokesperson for health and care, said that “new and innovative thinking to change the current trajectory that the NHS is on.”
He added: “That is why Plaid Cymru believes that a health crisis should be declared in Wales and why it was so disappointing that Labour voted this down in the Senedd yesterday.
“This would have shown that they’re prepared to acknowledge the scale of the challenge, and are prepared to set a new context in which to take on those challenges.”
Responding to the new NHS Wales statistics, Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds MS said: “Increased excess deaths, thousands on waiting lists and hours until an ambulance arrives, this is a horror show that the Welsh Labour Government has failed to get a hold of. People will be petrified when they or their loved ones fall ill.
“The Welsh NHS isn’t just at breaking point – it’s splitting at its very seams.
“We cannot continue to ignore the elephant in the room which is social care. Labour and Plaid Cymru promised social care reform in their Co-operation Deal, yet so far nothing meaningful has been announced.
“Until the Welsh Government takes the social care crisis seriously, our emergency departments will continue to struggle as they cannot discharge patients and ambulances sit queuing outside hospitals instead of helping more people.”
A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “December was an exception month and demand on the ambulance service and emergency departments remained high, with the month seeing the highest number of red/immediately life threatening calls ever made.
“Although the proportion of red calls responded to within 8 minutes was the lowest on record, December saw the highest number of red calls ever receive an emergency response with 8 minutes. F
“rom today an additional 75 ambulance clinicians will be operational to support timely ambulance responses.
“There was an average of 2,847 daily attendances to emergency departments and minor injury units which impacted performance against the four hour and twelve hour targets.
“Despite pressures and high volumes of demand being felt across the system, which have led to some patients waiting longer than we would hope, over 6000 (14.9%) ambulance calls were safely managed through remote telephone assessment.
“This enabled people to receive the support they need in the community and frees up ambulance resources to respond to other calls.
“In addition, over 138,000 calls were made to the 111 helpline service, the highest on record and up 157% compared to the previous peak in July 2022. There were also nearly 503,000 hits on the NHS 111 Wales website including over 27,300 completed symptom checks.
“Whilst we acknowledge emergency care performance is not where we expect it to be, we are driving system improvements, including extending same-day emergency care services to open seven-days a week, improving management of 999 patients on the phone, and recruiting more staff. Without all this the pressure on the system would be even greater.”
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