Changes to ambulance targets questioned as response times slump

First published in News

PROPOSED changes to ambulance service performance targets in Wales have been questioned by opposition AMs, as new figures showed emergency response times worsened last month.

Little more than half (52.8 per cent) of category A emergency call-outs reached their destination inside the standard eight minutes during February.

Wales-wide, 65 per cent of such calls should be reached inside eight minutes, with a 60 per cent target for individual council areas. The latter target was met in just four out of 22 areas.

Blaenau Gwent was the only one of Gwent's five council areas in which the February eight-minute response rate did not worsen. The February rate - 43 per cent - matched that for January, though that was the worst in Wales that month.

The February rate for Torfaen was 43.5 per cent, down 6.2 per cent, while similar falls were recorded in Caerphilly, Monmouthshire and Newport.

Eight-minute response time figures will be replaced in Wales as the main measure of how well the ambulance service is serving patients, with new ones to be trialled from next month, focusing more on quality of care and treatment.

Three conditions will receive special attention, hip fractures and suspected heart attacks and strokes. Speed of response will remain an essential - but not the only - element of the target.

Health minister Mark Drakeford said the trials "will make sure what we measure is more meaningful in terms of clinical benefit and outcomes for patients, rather than on the basis of time alone."

Welsh Conservative shadow health minister Darren Millar said the announcement of new targets on the day poor response times were published was an attempt to bury bad news.

“If you can’t meet crucial targets, the answer is not to change them. The answer is to identify problems and work harder to deliver improvements," he said.

Welsh Liberal Democrats leader Kirsty Williams called the latest figures "a national disgrace" adding: "I hope these changes are patient focused, rather than political."

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