Wales politics

Ambulance response time target missed

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Media captionBBC Wales health correspondent Owain Clarke looks behind the bad headlines the ambulance service has been getting

The Welsh Ambulance Service has again missed its target of reaching 65% of life-threatening incidents in eight minutes.

In August, 56.9% of ambulances met the eight-minute-target, down from 61.8% in the same month last year.

In June, ministers demanded "urgent improvements" within three months.

On Wednesday, the Welsh government said the figures were "disappointing", Conservatives said "urgent answers" were needed on the "dire" performance.

The service has missed the target for top priority calls for most of the past two years.

The latest figure for August is a drop on the previous month where 58.3% of ambulances hit the eight-minute-target.

Image copyright Sonia Powell's family
Image caption Sonia Powell died in an ambulance queue outside Morriston Hospital

Last week a 73-year-old great grandmother died in an ambulance queuing outside the A&E department at Morriston Hospital, Swansea.

But BBC Wales has learnt that some improvements may not be delivered until Christmas and that it could take up to three years before the service gets all the resources it suggests it needs.

Conservative Shadow Health Minister Darren Millar said it was "particularly worrying" that performance had been "so dire" during a largely warm, dry summer.

He added: "Urgent answers are needed from Labour ministers as to how they have left this to go on for so long and what action they intend to take to put it right."

Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Kirsty Williams asked: "How much more time do Labour ministers need before they'll admit that they just can't run our health service?"

Plaid Cymru health spokeswoman Elin Jones said the ambulance service's performance was a "long-standing failure" by Labour ministers "indicative of fundamental problems throughout the emergency care system".

Image copyright Stats Wales
Image caption The target was met in only four areas

'Improvement'

A Welsh government spokesman said the figures were "disappointing" and are not where "the Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust, health boards, the Welsh government or the public would want them to be".

He added: "However, an analysis of these figures shows they are an improvement on the service's performance in five of the past six months and the difference in the median response time in August compared to that in July is a matter of just eight seconds.

"Speaking at the end of June, Health and Social Services Minister Mark Drakeford set out a three-month timetable for the Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust to improve its emergency response time performance - we are currently only two-thirds of the way through that programme."

The Welsh Ambulance Service said it was introducing a series of changes to improve performance, including recruiting dozens of new paramedics.

Director of Service Delivery Mike Collins said the "top priority" was reducing delays admitting patients in ambulances to hospital.

He added: "We recognise that on occasion we fall short of the eight-minute target but are working as hard as we possibly can to get to patients as quickly as possible."

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