Delays in ambulance response to most urgent calls and growing waiting lists for NHS treatment in Wales
Just over half of immediately life-threatening calls made to the Welsh Ambulance Service were attended within under eight minutes last month.
65 per cent of category red calls – which are classed as immediately life-threatening – should be attended within the target time.
However just 50.8 per cent of these incidents received a response within eight minutes.
This was 3.7 percentage points lower than the previous month, and 9.8 percentage points lower than in June 2021.
The median response time in the four years prior to the pandemic ranged between 4 minutes 30 seconds and 6 minutes for red calls. In June, the average (median) response time to immediately life-threatening ‘red’ calls was 7 minutes and 55 seconds.
This was 33 seconds slower than the previous month.
Last month’s figures are the second longest on record, only exceeded in October 2021. Data is only comparable from May 2019 onwards.
Earlier today the Welsh Government announced that it would be investing an additional £3 million into the ambulance service to recruit additional paramedics and improve response times.
Figures released by the Welsh Government today show the increased demand on emergency departments in north Wales and across Wales as a whole.
In Wrexham although attendance times improved on the previous month, just 45.4 per cent of people at the Maelor emergency department were seen within four hours.
This is compared to 48.4 per cent at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd and 58.3 per cent at Ysbyty Gwynedd.
At the Wrexham Maelor Hospital 63.2 per cent were seen within eight hours and 76.8 per cent within 12 hours.
Across Wales 66.4 per cent of patients in all NHS emergency departments spent less than 4 hours in the department from arrival until admission, transfer or discharge.
This was 0.2 percentage points lower than the previous month and 5.2 percentage points lower than the same month a year ago.
Waiting lists have also continued to grow, with 722,147 across Wales yet to start to start treatment.
This is up on the 707,098 in the previous month.
Overall 388,952 have been waiting up to 26 weeks, 72,336 between 26 and 36 weeks and 260,859 over 36 weeks.
In North Wales 161,903 are waiting to start treatment, with 62,183 waiting longer than 36 weeks.
Responding to today’s figures the Welsh Conservatives have said the Welsh Government “need to get a grip on the NHS and stop breaking all the wrong records.”
Shadow Health Minister Russell George MS said: “When Mark Drakeford and his health minister were questioned last week about NHS waiting times, they said they were making progress, but just look at these figures.
“The backlog increasing by 15,000 in one month, 65,000 people waiting over two years for treatment, over 10,000 waiting over half a day in A&E, and the second worst longest ambulance waits on record – Labour cannot call this progress.
“We have been calling for surgical hubs to deal with the backlog in Wales for two years, but Labour said it would be “foolish” to have a Covid recovery plan while the pandemic was still ongoing – this reckless and arrogant attitude has meant patients and staff paying the price.”
Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds MS said: “Welsh Labour’s record on the NHS continues to be extremely poor. Many of the stats we have seen today are much worse than in England and Scotland.
“I of course welcome today’s announcement by the Welsh Government on additional funding for ambulance services, but it should not be seen as a silver bullet.
“Significant delays in ambulance response times are due to backlogs at A&E departments resulting in patients having to wait in ambulances outside.
“What we need to see is real investment in primary health services in local communities, including our GPs to prevent these build-ups at emergency departments and to prevent people falling into such ill-health they require more advanced treatment.
“Welsh Labour needs to get a better handle of this crisis as soon as possible, waiting lists cannot continue to grow month after month.
A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “Progress continues to be made to reduce the longest waits with the number of pathways waiting for more than two years reduced by 4.4 per cent – the second consecutive monthly fall after two years of consistent increases since the pandemic began.
“Despite the increase in demand, huge numbers of patients were seen in May with the highest number of inpatient and day case treatments carried out (24,167) since the start of the pandemic.
“This figure forms part of a total of almost 365,000 patient consultations (not including GP appointments or therapies) undertaken by the NHS in Wales, the fourth highest since the start of the pandemic back in March 2020.
“In May, 1,646 people started cancer treatment, 15 per cent more than in April 2022. In addition 11,883 pathways were closed following the patient being informed they did not have cancer, an increase of 13 per cent compared to April 2022.
The expected increase in demand saw referrals rising by 16.7 per cent in May 2022, compared to April, as more people seek help for their conditions following the pandemic.
There continues to be increased demand for emergency care and pressures are being intensified due to challenges with patient flow through the hospital system, as well as staffing constraints including a rise in COVID-sickness.
“In June, the proportion of all calls that were immediately life-threatening was 10 per cent, which is only the second time since a change to categorisation over three years ago.
An additional 263 ambulance clinicians have been recruited over the last two years and today we have announced a further £3m to recruit around 100 additional frontline staff to support improved response times for the most critically injured and seriously ill for the winter period.
“A new ambulance improvement plan was also agreed by Health Board chief executives last week and we expect to see improvement in ambulance patient handover performance as a result.” Spotted something? Got a story? Send a Facebook Message | A direct message on Twitter | Email: News@Deeside.com