Welsh Ambulance Service on target during busiest month on record as Government announces £10m investment in new vehicles
The Welsh Ambulance Service responded to nearly half of all calls to people with an immediately life-threatening illness or injury within just six minutes in February 2016, new figures published today show.
The performance comes despite February being the joint busiest month since monthly reporting began 10 years ago. Emergency and urgent healthcare services across Wales have experienced exceptionally high levels of demand during both January and February.
February was also the fifth month in a row that the Welsh Ambulance Service has exceeded the target of responding to 65% of life-threatening emergency calls – known as red calls – within eight minutes.
The target has been achieved every month since the service started a year-long pilot to test a new clinical response model in October 2015, which is designed to ensure patients get the right type pf emergency response for their needs.
Lacking in Transparency?
Critics have said the new reporting format lacks transparency as performance at county level is not published, figures for Wrexham which historically the best response times in North Wales, combined with Flintshire which had some of the worst performance times in North Wales, are now combined.
We asked Mark Isherwood AM for his view on Ambulance response time reporting;
“Given the huge gap in performance between different Counties, notably Wrexham and Flintshire, in previous figures, it is concerning that the new figures exclude a breakdown by County, which hampers transparency and hinders accountability.
“This must also be set against a context of significant variation in performance across Wales and the fact that the service has failed to meet targets for the past two years.
“Although Welsh Conservatives have consistently opposed the transition to new targets, we must congratulate hardworking ambulance staff after overall Welsh emergency ambulance response targets were met for the first time in two years, including 73.4% of emergency responses in the Betsi Cadwaladr LHB area.
The figures for February show 65.8% of emergency responses to red calls arrived within eight minutes and almost 71.3% of calls receiving a response in nine minutes.
- There were 37,560 emergency calls, an average of 1,295 per day – the joint highest (with December 2014) since monthly data collection started in 2006;
- The average number of emergency calls received every day in February was 1.2% higher than the daily average for January 2016;
- A total of 1,801 red calls were received, an average of 62 a day – two more than in January;
- Average daily calls have risen from less than 1,000 a day in 2006 to almost 1,300 a day in February 2016, an increase of 35%;
- Despite the high level of demand, the average response time to red calls was six minutes and two seconds;
- There were 54 calls to the ambulance service on average every hour;
- More than 30% of red calls received a response in just four minutes.
Deputy Health Minister, Vaughan Gething said:
“The Welsh Ambulance Service has again exceeded the eight-minute response time target in February for life-threatening calls in the face of exceptionally high demand.
“The vast majority of people who needed an immediate emergency response received one in less than eight minutes – with almost half of all red calls receiving a response within just six minutes.
Welsh Government has announced it is to invest £10.3m in 94 new ambulances
The Welsh Ambulance Service currently has 706 vehicles in its fleet, which cover an area of more than 8,000 square miles across Wales.
The investment will allow the Welsh Ambulance Service to purchase:
- 35 new emergency ambulances;
- 13 rapid response vehicles/emergency patient vehicles;
- 10 patient care services vehicles, capable of carrying stretchers;
- 32 patient care services vehicles, capable of carrying wheelchairs;
- Four specialist vehicles
The Minister for Finance and Government Business Jane Hutt allocated £10m for the Welsh Ambulance Service as part of the Welsh Government’s Final Budget for 2016-17.
Since 2011, the Welsh Government has invested almost £45m in new ambulance vehicles for the Welsh Ambulance Service.
Health and Social Services Minister, Mark Drakeford said:
“The demand on the Welsh Ambulance Service is growing every year, which is why it’s vital we invest in the latest vehicles so the service can deliver the best care for people in Wales.
“The £10.3m investment I’m announcing today will enable the Welsh Ambulance Service to upgrade its existing fleet. This is on top of the £34.3m we have already invested in new vehicles since 2011.
“This will ensure the ambulance service is able to deploy the most appropriate clinician in the most appropriate vehicle, ensuring people receive the quickest response possible.”
Richard Lee, the Welsh Ambulance Service’s Interim Director of Operations added:
“Our ambulances and response cars in Wales are some of the most modern and well equipped in the UK and this funding will allow us to continue to replace our vehicles as they reach the end of their working life.
“Modern ambulances are essential in order that we can continue to provide the best treatment and patient experience possible. It is also key for our staff who spend the majority of their working day out and about in the community.
“We are very grateful to the Welsh Government for their continued support.”
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