Extra funding and more armed forces to support Welsh Ambulance Service over winter
Over £34m of additional funding to help support the Welsh Ambulance Service through the coming winter months has been announced.
An extra 184 Armed Forces members have been made available to support the Welsh Ambulance Service NHS Trust (WAST), to increase the resilience of emergency responders during the winter period.
129 military personnel have been supporting the ambulance service in Wales since October and the latest uplift, due to begin on 4 January, will take the total number to 313. The task has also been extended until the end of March.
This deployment is the third time the Armed Forces have supported the Welsh Ambulance Service since the pandemic began in March 2020. 68 personnel deployed in April 2020 and 120 personnel augmented dedicated Welsh Ambulance Service staff in December 2020, including Defence medics.
£15m will fund the replacement of 111 emergency vehicles to improve fleet reliability and availability.
The new fleet will include 39 replacement emergency ambulances, 12 new emergency ambulances and 23 rapid response vehicles.
More than £8m will be made available to support emergency ambulance services, and non-emergency patient transport services.
This is made up of:
- £5m for the Welsh Ambulance Service NHS Trust:
– 36 additional frontline ambulance clinicians to enable a doubling of existing clinical support desk capacity to provide advice over the phone to 999 patients;
– Additional capacity to support winter response, including non-emergency patient transport services
– Support to co-ordinate the response to pressures in the urgent and emergency care system
– A ‘make ready depot’ at Singleton to increase ambulance vehicle availability in Swansea Bay.
- £2m for non-emergency patient transport services and the recruitment of mental health practitioners to support people with mental health issues over the phone.
- Further funding to support mental health patients through a transport pilot delivered by St John Cymru Wales.
This funding complements £9.8m previously allocated to Regional Partnership Boards to support people to return to their local communities after admission to hospital. This will help improve hospital patient discharges and ease the pressure on hospital beds.
Health Minister Eluned Morgan said: “Ambulance services and staff in Wales are under great strain due to the impact of the pandemic and winter pressures.
“We are determined to support the NHS – and all its staff – in every way we can. Investing in the ambulance service shows our commitment to ensuring people can access high-quality emergency care when they need it the most.
“Ambulance clinicians and staff have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic. I want to thank them for everything they have done to care for people.”
Jason Killens, chief executive of the Welsh Ambulance Service Trust, said: “Winter is traditionally our busiest period, and when you factor in the pandemic and its record levels of demand and staff absence, we have to redouble our efforts to provide a safe service to the people of Wales.
“The trust and its partners are working hard to find long-term and sustainable solutions to the issues across the entire health and social care system, but in the meantime, we have to look at short-term measures to bolster our capacity as best we can.”
Benjamin Savage, St John Ambulance Cymru’s chief operating officer, said: “We’re pleased to see more funding being made available to ambulance services across Wales ahead of a challenging winter period.
“We’ve already seen the benefits of Welsh Government funding for the communities we support this year with the launch of our mental health transport service, which has enabled us to look after hundreds of people who have needed our help.”
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said:
“Over the festive period our servicemen and women will continue to provide vital support to our dedicated emergency services across the UK to help keep communities safe.”
“The uplift of 184 extra personnel to support the ambulance service in Wales will ensure they can continue to provide life-saving services to those most in need.”
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