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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Labour complacency on the Welsh Ambulance Service

In First Minister's Questions today I raised the fact that in 2009 the Welsh Ambulance Service took more than twenty minutes to respond to 9,242 category A emergency incidents. This includes patients who are suffering from emergencies such as heart attacks, where every minute counts.

The target is that in an emergency the response should be within eight minutes and response time has a significant impact on survival rates.

The ambulance service is still dogged by historic debt and a recent independent review found that it is underfunded to the tune of £5 million per year. Delays in off-loading patients at accident and emergency services cost a further £2 million a year.

The First Minister responded by glossing over the figures and saying he expected things to be better this month. He refused to commit to dealing with the financial problems identified by the independent review.

In a further display of complacency he told another questioner that one of the reasons that ambulance response times were so bad in December and January was because the bad weather means that vehicles must travel more slowly.

He is right that there was bad weather but it lasted for a few days. The truth is that a shortage of acute beds, delays in accident and emergency units, underinvestment and particular problems in rural Wales and the South East all contributed to the fact that the Trust did not meet its targets. Yet the Government do not seem to be doing anything about it or even to understand the problem.
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