Ambulance delays: Wales targets missed in every area

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Media captionOne man who recently lost his mother says she suffered because of pressures on the NHS

Wales' ambulances failed to meet national response time targets for life-threatening calls in every local authority area last month.

All-Wales figures for March show 53.3% of emergency responses arrived within eight minutes. The Welsh Ambulance Service target was 65%.

Denbighshire narrowly missed the target but in Rhondda Cynon Taf only 42.1% of ambulances arrived within the time.

The ambulance service said it had faced extra pressures with adverse weather.

The issue was also raised during Prime Minister's Questions in Parliament on Wednesday.

A total of 37,724 calls were made to ambulance services in March and of those 16,060 were classed as immediately life-threatening.

Individual local authority areas within the Welsh Ambulance Service have a lower target of 60% for the calls but this was only reached in four out of the 22 areas.

These were Denbighshire (64.9%), Conwy (63.3%), Wrexham (62.6%) and Pembrokeshire (61.3%).

Alongside Rhondda Cynon Taf at the bottom of the response time league table for the most serious calls category were Merthyr Tydfil (43.5%), Flintshire (44.9%) and Torfaen (45.1%).

A Welsh Ambulance Service spokesperson said: "We continue to face significant pressure across the whole healthcare system and welcome the measures outlined by the Welsh Government to address these.

"March was a very busy month for us, taking a further 2,500 calls compared to last year, with a greater number of calls being of a more serious nature.

"This, combined with handover delays at hospitals and heavy snowfall and icy conditions, all impacted on our ability to respond to emergency calls and we commend the hard work and dedication of our staff in these challenging conditions.

"We once again ask the public to continue to support us by only dialling 999 and attending emergency departments for life threatening and serious illnesses and injuries - remember to keep emergency ambulances for your emergencies."

'Inevitable distress'

Meanwhile Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Kirsty Williams accused Welsh ministers of failing to address the issue, calling the figures an "absolute disgrace".

"I recognise that there were a large amount of calls in March with difficult weather conditions, but there really is no excuse for these appalling figures," she said. "Welsh Labour Ministers should hang their heads in shame."

Conservative health spokesman Darren Millar said ambulance response times had dropped to a "shockingly low level" and an explanation was needed urgently.

"Only half of life-threatening calls received a timely response in March and that means inevitable distress for thousands of patients," Mr Millar said.

"Every minute lost can harm a patient's recovery chances and delays can lead to death."

A wide-ranging review of the ambulance service's performance and structure, commissioned by the Welsh government, is due to be published within the next fortnight.

Answering an urgent assembly question on the latest response times, Health Minister Mark Drakeford said it was vital that different parts of the Welsh NHS took responsibility for solving the problems facing ambulance services rather than blaming each other for what was going wrong.

"It is essential that the ambulance service - the trust, and the LHBs (local health boards) regard the solution to these difficulties as something which they share," he told AMs.

"I am not satisfied with a situation where one side of this equation is able to point to the other as being the cause of the problem.

"They have to work together to provide a common solution.

"That is why I required the letters which were received recently setting out immediate steps [for improvement] to be jointly signed by the local health board and by a senior member of the Welsh Ambulance Trust," Mr Drakeford added.

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