Lesley Griffiths, Minister for Health and Social Services
Following a discussion in Plenary on 25 April with regard to ambulance response times, I committed to making a Written Statement on the Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust’s (WAST) performance against the two response time standards during the past twelve months. Members will know there are two targets applicable to WAST:
- 65% of all calls categorised as ‘life threatening’ to receive an emergency response within 8 minutes on an all-Wales basis and
- 60% of all calls categorised as ‘life threatening’ to receive a response within 8 minutes on a Unitary Authority basis.
I am pleased to note the response time performance has improved significantly over recent times. The 65% all Wales target has been met by the Trust in ten of the last twelve months and the target was only narrowly missed during December 2011 (64.7%) and February 2012 (63.2%) in that period.
Performance during December 2011 was the highest ever achieved for any previous December and is particularly noteworthy because of the significant increase in the number of life threatening calls during that month. The Trust also achieved its highest performance against the national standard since its introduction in May, July and August 2011 (71.2%).
Importantly, the Trust has also improved levels of performance in a number of Unitary Authority areas which have previously had difficulty achieving the 60% equity standard. I am pleased to see improvements have been achieved in Monmouthshire and Pembrokeshire where the 60% standard is being consistently achieved.
I recognise response time performance in the Rhondda Cynon Taf, Torfaen and Powys areas need to improve in terms of consistency. However, Members will know of the unique set of challenges faced by the Trust in providing an 8 minute response in all three areas. The Trust is striving to improve performance in these areas. The introduction of a Head of Service Delivery for each Health Board, in addition to the implementation of alternative care pathways, is designed to improve delivery of services in these areas as well as all other localities across Wales.
Improvements in response times over the past twelve months are testament to the hard work, dedication and commitment of operational and management staff at the Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust. This hard work has been supported by a progressive strategic approach which has seen the implementation of a clinical response model which aims to provide the right service with the right care, in the right place, at the right time and with the right skills. This strategic direction will result in a change to ambulance service provision from a transport service to a provider of high-quality health care.
I expect the Trust to continue to consistently achieve in excess of the 65% standard nationally and work towards the achievement of 70% on a rolling monthly basis this year.
I also expect greater focus on achieving and sustaining the 60% equity standard across all Unitary Authorities areas, and the provision of equitable ambulance services for all patients in Wales. The Welsh Government will continue to support the Trust in the delivery of its improvement programme and its overarching objective of providing the highest quality of clinical care to patients who require an ambulance response.