Lack of ambulance response time targets are putting stroke suffers at unnecessary risk

Welsh Conservative Shadow Health Minister Angela Burns AM has accused the Welsh Government of putting suffers of serious medical conditions, including strokes, at risk of unnecessary harm through its refusal to instate target ambulance response times for ‘amber’ calls.

Her comments follow headlines today which report patients are being left for more than two hours for medical treatment after suffering a stroke.

Figures revealed by the Welsh Conservative Party show that the Welsh Government’s failure to follow NHS England’s four-tier categorisation system means that sufferers of numerous serious medical complaints are unprotected by any guidance for ambulance attendance times.

As well as stroke victims, amber calls in Wales relate to suffers of chest pains, choking, fitting, poisoning and overdoses, and even some stabbing and gunshot trauma.

By comparison, in England, the ambulance service’s four categories mark chest pains and strokes as category 2, which should be attended to within 18 minutes on average. Category 1 or life-threatening calls should be attended to within seven minutes. In Wales there are only targets for what the Welsh Government calls ‘Red’ calls, which should be attended to within eight minutes.

Between 2018 and 2019, there were 327,374 amber calls in Wales, up year-on-year from 217,000 in 2015 to 16 and 225,000 in 2017 to 18.

Amber response times from June highlight that 46% of amber calls are taking more than 30 minutes to attend. The worst performing health board is Swansea Bay, where over 64% of ambulances take longer than 30 minutes.

The Welsh Conservative figures show that 15,547 stroke sufferers last year were attended to as amber calls, despite advice from The Stroke Association that ‘a stroke is a medical emergency. The quicker the person arrives at a specialist stroke unit, the quicker they will receive appropriate treatment.’

Commenting, Angela Burns said:

“It is completely unacceptable that the Health Minister’s failure to address response times for amber calls is threatening the safety of patients across Wales.

“Just last November following a review into ambulance times in Wales, I warned the Welsh Government that much more needed to be done to address the waiting times for stroke sufferers, as well as for those with symptoms of sepsis.

“I’ll continue to push for change on this, because the Welsh Government needs to wake up and listen to expert advice and the calls of deservedly worried members of the public.”