Calls for improvements to ambulance response times have surfaced this week, as the NHS was criticised for the way its ambulance service responds to emergency calls.
It has been revealed that there are no time targets for patients suffering from heart attacks and strokes, whilst those suffering from other serious injuries and conditions have had to wait hours for an ambulance to arrive.
A new “Red”, “Amber” and “Green” system for dictating response times was introduced in 2015, with Red calls including “immediately life threatening” conditions such as cardiac arrests and choking. The Welsh Government have targeted that following calls in the Red category, an ambulance should arrive at the scene within eight minutes.
Amber calls, however, have no targeted response time, though can also include serious and potentially life threatening cases, including “most heart attacks”. The difference here is that Red responses are for patients whose heart have stopped beating, whilst amber is for severe chest pains, and less severe heart attacks.
Sheila Jones, of Rhos-on-Sea near Colwyn Bay, spoke of when her husband Rhys had a heart attack during their walk in Llandundo: “My husband and I were out walking when he began suffering from severe chest pains, feeling clammy and nauseous. It wasn’t until 34 minutes after 999 was called that an ambulance eventually arrived. It was extremely distressing and I was left worrying for his life.
“A whole 1 hour and 18 minutes passed between the call for an ambulance and my husband arriving at Glan Clwyd Hospital. Once there he was confirmed to have had an ‘acute cardiac episode’.”
Ambulance services have also been described as “laughable” by Cardiff University student Alex Tully. The 3rd year CPLAN student told Gair Rhydd of his harrowing experiences at the hands of the Wales Ambulance Service’s long response times.
He said: “Well, basically I have dislocated my right kneecap twice at uni, both times I have required an ambulance to take to hospital for the knee to be relocated. On both occasions, I have been in excruciating pain and the ambulance response rates were mediocre at best, the second time for example, the person operating the phone was unwilling to give me an ambulance in the first place, which for an injury this severe is absolutely laughable.”
He added: “ I had to wait over 2 hours, and I was at one point subject to a guy who was cycling around with a medi kit before the proper ambulance arrived, he gave me ‘oxygen’ which didn’t help with the pain aside from being a placebo effect, the ambulance was unable to navigate sufficiently and find me (I was on Pontcanna fields).
“It was just an absolute ordeal.”
“However saying that, the help both times has been excellent in terms of pain prevention and getting to the hospital, so I can’t fault them for that. It’s a shame that the response times don’t equate to the excellent work done by the paramedics and subsequent doctors.
“From my experience, with an injury like that, the longer time goes by, the adrenaline wears out and the pain becomes almost unbearable so it is of paramount importance response times are improved.”
Finally, he said: “It’s exacerbated by seeing swift ambulance response times to take those who are heavily intoxicated to hospital, as I’ve seen outside the SU a few times; when in all honesty it’s not a comparable event in terms of urgency and distress as dislocating your kneecap.
“To summarise, it’s annoyingly just a little chink in the armour that separates local hospitals from being excellent, opposed to great.”