Inconsistent Wales Ambulance Service still letting down patients
Wales Ambulance Service is still struggling to meet response times for emergency calls and putting lives at risk according to the National Assembly For Wales’s Audit Committee.
The latest report in to the service has shown calls answered within the target 8 minutes fell to as low as 47.6 percent in December 2008.
More recently that figure rose to 65 percent but committee chair Jonathan Morgan AM believes not enough progress has been made:
"The committee is concerned that targets designed to ensure a prompt response to emergency 999 calls are not being met consistently and at times, performance falls well below the required level. The committee is also concerned that performance has been adversely affected by the Trust’s efforts to make efficiency savings."
17 million pounds has been saved by WAS NHS Trust but has hit frontline staff. The Trust also said the unexpected cold snap last December had put extra pressure on health services – a claim dismissed by the committee as unacceptable.
Other concerns surround the amount of time many ambulances are waiting at hospital emergency departments to hand over patients, which Mr Morgan thinks puts lives unnecessarily at risk:
"Lengthy delays to handovers at accident and emergency units can mean that paramedics are queuing with patients in corridors and unavailable to answer 999 calls. For the patient in an A&E Department a lengthy wait is unacceptable. For the patient in the community awaiting a response to a 999 call, the situation could be fatal.”
Among the Audit Committee recommendations to the Welsh Assembly Government are:
·Robust plans to ensure predictable seasonal variations are better managed during winter months.
·More updates on ambulance response times, particularly around the christmas period. Updates should be provided by February 2010.
·Welsh Assembly Government should examine findings from studies looking into qualitative targets and consider amending quantitative targets currently in place.
·Welsh Assembly Government should revisit the issue of data collection in emergency departments to try and speed up handover times.