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Ambulance response times in Wales now worst on record

19 Jan 2023 4 minute read
Ambulances at Morriston Hospital – Photo Sarah Morgan Jones

Ambulance response times in Wales are now the worst on record with only 2 in 5 life threatening calls to 999 responded to within the eight-minute target.

December saw a record low of ambulances attending the most life-threatening red calls within target and 78% of amber calls, which include heart attacks and strokes took over an hour to arrive.

This figure is the highest on record and beats previous numbers in December 2021 and 2020, the latter of which was at the height of the pandemic.

Hospital waiting times spiralled with a staggering 12,000 people across Wales waiting over 12 hours in A&E during December.

18,888 patients waited over eight hours for emergency care which is double the Welsh Government’s target of four hours.

In the same time period, just over half of cancer patients started their treatment within the target time of 62 days.

Despite the shocking figures, the Welsh Government reported that the number of people receiving cancer treatment within the target window had increased compared to November.


Plaid Cymru has described the new figures as confirmation that the NHS in Wales is in “crisis”.

Spokesperson for health and care, Rhun ap Iorwerth MS said: “Welsh Government cannot keep doing the same thing and expecting waiting times to drastically improve – this needs new and innovative thinking to change the current trajectory that the NHS is on.

“That is why Plaid Cymru believes that a health crisis should be declared in Wales and why it was so disappointing that Labour voted this down in the Senedd yesterday.

“This would have shown that they’re prepared to acknowledge the scale of the challenge and are prepared to set a new context in which to take on those challenges.”

The Welsh Government said that demand on the ambulances and emergency departments in December was “exceptional” and the highest number of immediately life-threatening calls on record.

Calls to the NHS 111 service also hit record numbers up 157% compared to the previous peak in July 2022.

The Welsh Lib Dems described the record ambulance delays as a “horror show” and called on the Welsh Government to take the social care crisis “seriously”.

Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds MS said “Increased excess deaths, thousands on waiting lists and hours until an ambulance arrives, this is a horror show that the Welsh Labour Government has failed to get a hold of. People will be petrified when they or their loved ones fall ill.

“The Welsh NHS isn’t just at breaking point – it’s splitting at its very seams.”


During December, four of Wales’s health board reported “extreme pressure” to their health and social care systems and warned patients to only dial 999 in a “life or limb” emergency.

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “Whilst we acknowledge emergency care performance is not where we expect it to be, we are driving system improvements, including extending same-day emergency care services to open seven-days a week, improving management of 999 patients on the phone, and recruiting more staff. Without all this the pressure on the system would be even greater.”

The Welsh Conservatives said the new figures were “dire” and could risk patient safety.

Shadow Health Minister Russell George MS said: “How can anyone have any confidence in the Labour Government in Cardiff Bay to resolve the issues facing the NHS like access to GPs and dentists and solving strikes when both emergency and elective care on their watch is crumbling?

“I know this is a difficult situation across many nations, but we must remember, that on Labour’s watch, Wales has been left in a worse position – we’ve just recorded the worst A&E and ambulance response times on record and we have Britain’s longest waiting list.”

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