Ambulance response times in Wales are 'worst on record'

Ambulances at a hospital
Image caption The Welsh Ambulance Service has said it was working to address underlying issues

Ambulance response times for the most urgent calls in Wales are the worst on record, new figures show.

The proportion of ambulances hitting the target response time of eight minutes for the most urgent calls fell well below half in December.

The target for responding to Category A calls is 65% - but in December it was just 42.6%.

It was down from 51.0% in November 2014 and from 57.6% from December 2013.

The statistics were the subject of angry exchanges at Prime Ministers Questions, with David Cameron describing them as the "worst on record" and blaming "catastrophic cuts and mismanagement" of the Welsh NHS by Labour ministers.

Labour leader Ed Miliband accused Mr Cameron of having a "war on Wales" and using the Welsh NHS for political propaganda.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionTracy Myhill, interim chief executive at the Welsh Ambulance Service, said the figures were "unacceptable"

Tracy Myhill, interim chief executive at the Welsh Ambulance Service, said: "We completely appreciate that this presents an unacceptable level of service delivery across the whole health and social care system."

"There are a number of mitigating factors that we need to consider.

"Firstly, we took more than 40,000 calls in December, which is a record high for us and well above what we projected for that month.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionA doctor is joining a paramedic on emergency calls as part of a trial to try and ease pressures by Aneurin Bevan health board

"Secondly, when you break down our 'Red' calls into Red 1s (immediately life-threatening, e.g. cardiac arrest) and Red 2s (serious but less immediately time critical, e.g. suspected stroke), we performed much better on the higher acuity Red 1 calls (57.9%) than the Red 2 calls (40.6%).

"While this is still not where we'd like performance to be, it demonstrates that we are still reaching the majority of our most critically ill patients within eight minutes."

Response times breakdown

  • 42.6% of Category A calls received an emergency response within 8 minutes
  • 47.4% within 9 minutes
  • 52.0% within 10 minutes
  • 68.9% within 15 minutes
  • 79.1% within 20 minutes
  • 89.8% within 30 minutes

Deputy Health Minister Vaughan Gething said the ambulance service needed to urgently improve its response to emergency 999 calls.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionDeputy Health Minister Vaughan Gething says the ambulance service needs to urgently improve

Leader of the Welsh Conservatives Andrew RT Davies has called for "urgent action" to address the "alarming decline" in ambulance response times.

Plaid Cymru health spokeswoman Elin Jones said paramedics were facing pressures caused by the "lack of integration of health and social care and the lack of planning".

Kirsty Williams, leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, said the figures were "absolutely appalling and the Welsh Labour government should be ashamed."

A Welsh government spokesperson said the figures demonstrated the immense pressure the Welsh Ambulance Service was under throughout December.

"The demand on the service was unprecedented, with the service receiving 40,147 calls during the month, or around 1,295 a day," the spokesperson said.

"They are nevertheless disappointing and there is no complacency about the need to improve performance."

The figures come as police forces across Wales said they took patients to hospital more than 100 times last month.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites