Ambulance Call-response Strategies

2. Questions to the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care – in the Senedd at on 5 June 2024.

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Photo of Hefin David Hefin David Labour


6. Will the Cabinet Secretary make a statement on call-response strategies in the Welsh Ambulance Services University NHS Trust? OQ61187

Photo of Baroness Mair Eluned Morgan Baroness Mair Eluned Morgan Labour 2:45, 5 June 2024

All calls to the Welsh ambulance service are prioritised based on the relative clinical severity of symptoms as described by the caller, to ensure those with the greatest clinical need are prioritised to receive the best possible response to maximise their chance of a positive outcome.

Photo of Hefin David Hefin David Labour

Diolch. I recently met with the daughter of a constituent, her father, who died waiting for an ambulance in 2022. The daughter subsequently complained to the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales for the way that the call had been handled. The ombudsman found that the initial 999 call was categorised correctly as amber 1, but they also found that correct procedures were not followed for the welfare call and this could have changed the category of the initial call and upheld that part of the complaint. Her father went into cardiac arrest only 20 minutes after the welfare call and his daughter believes that vital signs of deterioration were missed. She feels strongly that the call should have been treated with more seriousness and undertaken by appropriately qualified staff. My constituent's daughter also believes that amber 1 calls, which include conditions that have therapeutic response times, should have a response time target, and getting the appropriate medical treatment within these time frames could potentially be the difference between life and death. She's very concerned that, when it comes to these kinds of calls, the welfare call is fully understood as to what it means for the people who are receiving the care. Will the Cabinet Secretary, therefore, ask the Welsh ambulance services trust to review both how it prioritises amber 1 calls and welfare calls, to make sure that welfare calls are done appropriately and ensure that an occurrence like this could not happen a second time?

Photo of Baroness Mair Eluned Morgan Baroness Mair Eluned Morgan Labour 2:46, 5 June 2024

Thanks very much, and I'm really sorry to hear about that example, Hefin. I hope you'll send my condolences on to the family. Obviously, I can't comment on an individual case, but I think the principle of the welfare call is something that I will look into and just find out exactly how that fits in with the prioritisation that already happens.

Photo of Natasha Asghar Natasha Asghar Conservative 2:47, 5 June 2024

I'd like to thank Hefin David for asking this very important question, and please accept my heartfelt condolences for your constituent on their loss as well.

Cabinet Secretary, a constituent of mine recently had a heart attack at home and, when his wife called for an ambulance, she was told there was a three to five hour wait. As a result, and following a conversation with 999 call operator, his wife in fact drove him to the Grange hospital, and, after having a cardiac arrest at the Grange, my constituent was then transferred to the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff where he had an artery blockage removed and two stents fitted. Thankfully, my constituent is doing well following this medical episode and has a lot of praise for the NHS staff who helped treat him. Now, after he approached me for help, I was left wondering why, as my constituent explained to me, would an ambulance call handler direct patients suffering from suspected heart attacks to the Grange when there are no cardiac specialists actually at the hospital itself? It's since been revealed to me that the cath lab at the Grange is only funded between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday to Friday, and Saturday mornings, so will you please commit to looking into providing additional funding to expand the lab's opening hours?

In response to a letter on this matter, Cabinet Secretary, your office explained that health boards had developed ambulance improvement plans, so will you please kindly provide me as well as other Members here in the Chamber with an update on the success of these plans so far and outline any additional steps the Government will be taking to improve outcomes for patients? Thank you.

Photo of Baroness Mair Eluned Morgan Baroness Mair Eluned Morgan Labour 2:48, 5 June 2024

Thanks very much. I'm afraid there are longer waits, you're quite right, for non-urgent cases. It's all categorised according to some very medical and technical issues. The average response wait for a red call is about 15 minutes, but, obviously, this was a different category. I'll look into the issue of why somebody was sent to the wrong place. I think that is a fairly fundamental problem. That doesn't sound right to me. So, obviously, there does need to be some training in relation to that if that is happening. I will look into that. What I can't commit to, obviously, is extending lab hours. All of that means massive additional finance, which we don't have at the moment. We simply don't have the additional finance. Anything that asks for more resources that goes into a particular area is really, really difficult for us at the moment. But, I certainly will look into why they were sent to the wrong place.

Photo of Rhianon Passmore Rhianon Passmore Labour

Diolch, Llywydd. Cabinet Secretary, Robert Holcombe, the Aneurin Bevan University Health Board's finance chief—

Photo of Elin Jones Elin Jones Plaid Cymru 2:50, 5 June 2024

You need to ask the question on the order paper first, please.

Photo of Rhianon Passmore Rhianon Passmore Labour

I missed the first bit. Sorry, I do apologise.