Welsh ambulances: £9.5m upgrade for fleet

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Media captionThe news came ahead of an assembly debate on a wide-ranging review of the under-fire ambulance service

Almost £9.5m is to be spent upgrading the Welsh ambulance fleet in an investment prompted by demands on the service.

Health Minister Mark Drakeford said emergency ambulances and rapid response vehicles would be among 110 replaced.

The news came ahead of an assembly debate on a wide-ranging review of the under-fire ambulance service.

The Conservatives welcomed the cash but said it would not make any difference to failing response times.

Mr Drakeford said: "The volume of calls to the ambulance service in Wales has risen by 68% over the last decade.

"It relies on its vehicles being ready to respond 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

"Ambulances in Wales are exposed to harsh conditions and high mileages in many cases.

"We must, therefore, keep investing in new vehicles so they are on the road and able to provide high quality clinical services.

Mr Drakeford gave the Welsh government's formal response to the findings of the McLelland review of ambulance services in an assembly debate.

He said the review, which was carried out by health academic Prof Siobhan McLelland, "raises a number of interesting options for improving the service further".

The review, published last month, called for a "clear vision" for the service and big changes to the way it works.

Paramedics should be given more training to make decisions about patient care, said the review, which was ordered by the former Health Minister Lesley Griffiths.

The ambulance service should concentrate on emergency patients, leaving routine transfers to hospitals as the responsibility of local health boards.

The review also found a "fundamental problem" with accountability and governance arrangements of the ambulance service which it describes as "complex and lacking in clarity".

It also urged a revamp of performance targets.

According to the latest figures, the ambulance service failed to meet targets for life-threatening call responses in every local authority area.

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

In response, the service said it had faced extra pressures with adverse weather.

Conservative health spokesman Darren Millar said any new investment "in our cash-strapped NHS" is welcome.

But he added: "I fail to see how a decision to replace old ambulances with new vehicles will make a difference to failing response times.

"The minister must roll up his sleeves and work hard to address the current crisis in unscheduled care in Wales, from dealing with the shortage of inpatient beds in our hospitals to increasing the number of ambulances and paramedics on our roads.

"It is only actions like these which will really improve performance in the future."

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