“VERY DISAPPOINTING”. That was the Welsh Government’s uncharacteristically understated response to the news that the Wales Ambulance Service’s performance had declined yet again.
The figures show that 50.8% of ambulances in Pembrokeshire arrived at the scene of an immediate life-threatening Category A call within 8 minutes. The target is 65%. Neighbouring counties of Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire achieved better figures of 53.3% and 51.9% respectively, and the average for the whole of Wales was 54.1%. While Health Minister Mark Drakeford said that he expected month on month improvement. He failed to set out what steps – if any – he will take if the Ambulance Service continues to fail. Commenting on the figures, Paul Davies AM said “It beggars belief that the Local Health Board and the Welsh Labour Government continue to steam roller through with their unpopular and illconceived changes to our hospital services. It’s clear that at present the ambulance service is under great pressure, and these proposed changes to our health services will mean that patients will have to travel further for treatment, and put even more pressure on our hard working ambulance personnel.” He added “I would like to pay tribute to the dedication of our local paramedics who are being put in an impossible situation. Travelling further to get medical help will only make matters worse and once again I would urge the Local Health Board and Welsh Labour Government to stop their reckless assault on services at Withybush Hospital.” Plaid Cymru health spokeswoman Elin Jones said: “It is clear that the government has failed to deliver the improvements that are needed.” The Local Health Board has repeatedly told Pembrokeshire residents that the Ambulance Service will be able to fulfil the needs of patients in the County as its plans to slash services at Withybush proceed. In response to a Freedom of Information Act request, the Board has claimed that: “Concerns which were raised predominantly related to transport mainly the safety of women in labour and neonates in transit between units in an emergency situation. Discussions continue to take place with Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust (WAST) and other bodies with a view to establishing mechanisms to resolve these concerns.” The Ambulance Service’s appalling performance figures and the fact that “discussions” are continuing with only a few weeks to go before the Board cuts services at Withybush is one indication that those concerns will not be resolved before the end of July.
PARAMEDIC Colin Picton has written to health minister Mark Drakeford. We have reprinted the letter in full here.
I’m writing to you, not that you’re going to take much notice to this email, as you and your band of merry men have come to your conclusions already, about removing vital resources and services from our fantastic hospital, at Withybush in Haverfordwest. I would like you to answer for me, how have you come to this decision, and on what evidence your decision has been made? Do you think it’s acceptable that lives will be lost? Do you think it’s acceptable for vulnerable people to travel such a distance to receive the care they deserve? I have three healthy children and one of them was born prematurely and we used the SCUBU at Withybush, and must say the staff there were amazing, hard-working and dedicated, and I couldn’t have imagined travelling long distances to receive this care elsewhere. As a Paramedic, let me draw some interesting facts to your attention that all my other colleagues want to say, so I will speak on their behalf: • Pembrokeshire at present has 5 ambulances available 24/7 unless Welsh Ambulance are saving money (which does happen) and due to sickness some stations go without cover reducing this to 4, sometimes 3 available vehicles. • Geographically we have one of the most rural areas in Wales. Our 8 minute response times are hardly met now as it is and we are desperate for MORE resources. • Milford Haven alone is the second most populated town in west wales next to Llanelli, and this is only getting bigger, due to additional housing being built to cope with the growing population. • We have on our doorstep one of the busiest ports in the UK and Two refinery’s two LNG plants and a power station. What would happen if there was a major incident? Where would the cover arrive from? How long will it take for them to receive the specialist care they need? How many people will die in the meantime? I have been sat outside A&E for hours at a time waiting to off load, along with sometimes 7 other vehicles, now if these vehicles were out of county that is leaving no cover what so ever in Pembrokeshire, so it’s not all about the facilities that are being downgraded its the impact on the Ambulance Service being able to meet demand, after travelling such distances. In my time as Paramedic I can count at least 20 patients that if they had not received specialist care within 10-15 minutes they would have died, now there are 70-80 staff in Pembrokeshire making that figure roughly 1600. We are playing with statistics now, something like your Cabinet is doing. But that’s potentially 1600 lives that would have been lost: now are you happy for this to happen knowing that investing in our already fantastic hospital and making it a centre of excellence would be far more beneficial than making these ridiculous decisions based on no facts, no risk assessments and no thought what so ever?! I ask you: would you be happy for one of your family to wait in excess of 1 hour for an Emergency Ambulance? Would you be happy for them to travel 50 minutes in the back when they could have been 10 minutes away from the care they needed, but it had been removed due to the penny pinching government that are in power right now? In the long run, there will be so many lives lost due to all these changes the amount of money in corporate manslaughter cases will bring the Welsh Assembly to its knees. This, I don’t care about; but lives, I do. My family my friends the people of Pembrokeshire deserve better, we deserved to be listened to. We have a right to the best possible care and you’re taking this away from us all. I look forward to your response, and would hope you could give me the reasoning for these decisions, and some helpful facts on how the Ambulance Service will meet this demand, and bearing in mind we know the current situation so we will not be palmed off with your made up statistics Mr Drakeford, let’s hear the real truth for once, we deserve to know.
Kind regards Mr Colin Picton