Ambulance response times for the most life-threatening calls in Powys are well below target, new figures show.
Data released this week by the Welsh Government showed that during April 2023 only 42.6 per cent of immediately life-threatening calls within the Powys Teaching Health Board area were attended to within eight minutes.
There is currently a target for 65 per cent of such severe life threatening ‘red’ calls to have a response within eight minutes.
Figures for Powys also fell well below the national average - just over half (53 per cent) of ‘red’ calls across Wales responded to within the eight-minute target timeframe.
The latest NHS figures also showed that at the end of March 2023, 31,700 patients’ pathways were waiting more than two years for treatment - falling around 5,000 from the previous month.
The Welsh Government had previously set a target that no-one would be waiting for more than two years for treatment as at the end of March 2023.
Cefin Campbell, Plaid Cymru Member of the Senedd for Mid & West Wales called the figures “alarming” and said the figures are aligning with what he is hearing from his constituents.
Mr Campbell said: “Now we’re into spring, it’s clear that we’re no longer talking about seasonal pressures – but rather a deep-rooted inability to get to grips with the pressures in our NHS.
“The figures sadly reflect a growing trend I’m regularly seeing in my inbox and on the doorstep, with constituents across Powys citing lengthy delays for an ambulance – often with devastating consequences. Whilst I am aware of the unprecedented pressures the pandemic has placed on our hardworking NHS staff and services, clearly urgent action needs to be undertaken to overcome these problems.”
In response to these figures, The Welsh Ambulance Service said that hospital handover delays remain the “number one reason” why patients are experiencing delays in waiting for an ambulance.
Lee Brooks, Executive Director of Operations at the Welsh Ambulance Service, said: “While response times have improved since March, performance is still not where it should be and we’re sorry to all those patients who have had a poor experience in recent weeks and months.
“Hospital handover delays remain the number one reason we can’t get to patients quickly, and it’s as frustrating for staff as it is for patients.
“We lost more 23,000 hours at hospitals across Wales last month – the equivalent of 2,000 shifts – but are seeing encouraging progress in Cardiff, where they lost 847 hours in April 2023 vs. 2,590 hours in April 2022.
“With prompt hospital handover comes better response times because crews are available to respond to other emergencies, and in Cardiff, we reached more immediately life-threatening ‘Red’ calls (64 per cent) in eight minutes this April compared to last (61.5 per cent), even though we had more Red calls on the whole; 553 in April 2023 vs. 527 in April 2022.
“The response time for Cardiff patients in our serious but not life-threatening ‘Amber’ category also averaged 1 hour 34 minutes this April, vs. 2 hours and 37 minutes last April.
“We continue to work with Local Health Boards and Welsh Government to resolve the complex handover delay issue and in the meantime, focus our efforts on things which are within our control, like finding new ways to work smarter with our finite resources.
“As always, the public can help by only calling 999 when someone is seriously ill or injured or their life is in danger. Use NHS 111 Wales online for advice on a range of conditions, or call them if you’re unsure.
“You can also visit a minor injuries unit, where you don’t need an appointment, your local pharmacy or your GP.”
Welsh Government Health Minister Eluned Morgan was also approached for comment and was asked what was being done to ensure rural areas were not being left behind.
A Welsh Government spokesperson said in response: “All health boards now have joint ambulance improvement plans in place to improve speed of ambulance responses and management of 999 patients locally.
“We have made an additional £900,000 available to Powys Teaching Health Board this year to help people access urgent or emergency care when they need it. Our investment in wider health services in Powys includes £15m towards the recent redevelopment of Bro Ddyfi Community Hospital in Machynlleth.”