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Ambulance time improvements welcome, but unsustainable

2009 Tachwedd 10 2:14 PM

Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Health Minister, Peter Black, has welcomed the recent improvements in ambulance response times, but has also warned that without action by the Minister, the service will deteriorate again.

In September, 67.1% of responses to immediately life-threatening (Category A) calls arrived within eight minutes, 71.5% within nine minutes and 75.8% within ten minutes. This means that 91.4% of Category A calls and 81.9% of Category B (all other emergency calls) calls arrived within the target times. This represents the best performance of the service within the last year, and a significant increase from the low of 47.6% in December 2008.

However Mr. Black is concerned that the debt still being repaid by the service, as well as the cash it is being expected to repay as a contribution to the Health Commission Wales debt, means that the service will not be able to continue the improvement. Over the next two years the budget of the ambulance service will also be cut by £40 million, leaving them with a risk of serious financial difficulty.

Mr. Black said:

"I am very pleased to hear that there has been another improvement in response times this month, as there had been for the previous few months. The hard working staff of the service, as well as the hospital A&E departments, should be congratulated for the work that they have put in to meeting these targets."

"However, this work is at risk of being undone by the government due to the financial pressures that the service is under. I understand that times are tough and budgets are being squeezed, but cutting the budget of the Ambulance Trust when it is already struggling is simply condemning it to failure."

"What is needed is support from government, not added pressures. The debt of the service should be written off as it has been for other Health Boards, and the present level of funding should be maintained so that the service can look at developing upon the improvements that have been made, rather than concentrate on where they will have to make budgets cuts, which the Minister is effectively forcing upon them."