Ambulances Forced To Wait At A&E

Patients are regularly waiting more than 50 minutes in ambulances outside south east Wales accident and emergency units, BBC Wales has revealed. In February, there were delays at two hospitals because of a high volume of 999 calls and a shortage of beds.

Over the last three months an average 106 vehicles a week have waited more than 50 minutes to deliver patients, the Welsh Ambulance Service confirmed. It said it was addressing the issue with hospitals as a matter of urgency. The summer months are traditionally a quiet time, but the ambulance service said it has been encountering problems at major district hospitals.

However, it added the figures had improved this week to an average of 85 ambulances waiting at hospitals for more than 50 minutes. The Royal Glamorgan Hospital in Llantrisant was the first to experience ambulance queues back in February.

Patients waited more than two hours to be admitted as emergencies “overwhelmed” the hospital over three days. Several days later, the ambulance service said 11 of its vehicles had queued outside the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff for up to an hour.

The ambulance service says it is working with hospitals to find ways of easing the pressure on accident and emergency departments. A spokesperson said: “The issue is of great concern to the service and we are, as a matter of urgency, addressing the situation with the hospitals at the highest levels, whilst working with hospital staff to find satisfactory solutions to the problems.”

The ambulance service experienced a crisis in 2006 which saw several bosses quit. It had failed to meet response time targets and was branded “appalling” and “unacceptable” in a report by a committee of AMs in March this year. But in May, it claimed its performance was the best in its history, after hitting response targets for the second month running.

Just last month, its head Alan Murray said he had helped restore some pride and credibility after one year in the job. Health Minister Edwina Hart said she would be meeting the chair of the Ambulance Trust. “It is important that all health organisations pull together to ensure the very best service for patients in Wales,” a Welsh Assembly Government statement said.