Extra funding including doubling of military support for Welsh Ambulance Service to deal with ‘record levels of demand’
An extra 34m is being provided to the Welsh Ambulance Service to deal with “record levels of demand” due to the pandemic and other winter pressures.
It includes £11m to extend military support for ambulances until the end of March – the number of personnel will increase from 100 to 250 early next year.
£15m will fund the replacement of 111 emergency vehicles to improve fleet reliability and availability. The new fleet will include 39 replacement emergency ambulances, 12 new emergency ambulances and 23 rapid response vehicles.
It comes after a report last month showed that Wales had the longest waiting times of all ambulance services in England, Scotland and Wales.
The report, compiled by the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives (AACE) focused on a structured clinical review, undertaken to assess the potential harm that patients experience as a result of extended delays in their handover from an ambulance crew to hospital staff.
Jason Killens, chief executive of the Welsh Ambulance Service Trust, said that the new funding by the Welsh Government was a “short-term measure” to boost capacity.
“Winter is traditionally our busiest period, and when you factor in the pandemic and its record levels of demand and staff absence, we have to redouble our efforts to provide a safe service to the people of Wales,” he said.
“The trust and its partners are working hard to find long-term and sustainable solutions to the issues across the entire health and social care system, but in the meantime, we have to look at short-term measures to bolster our capacity as best we can.”
Of the £34m, more than £8m has been made available to support emergency ambulance services, and non-emergency patient transport services. This includes:
- £5m for the Welsh Ambulance Service NHS Trust, including 36 additional frontline ambulance clinicians to enable a doubling of existing clinical support desk capacity to provide advice over the phone to 999 patients;
- £2m for non-emergency patient transport services and the recruitment of mental health practitioners to support people with mental health issues over the phone.
Benjamin Savage, St John Ambulance Cymru’s chief operating officer, said that he was “pleased to see more funding being made available to ambulance services across Wales ahead of a challenging winter period”.
“We’ve already seen the benefits of Welsh Government funding for the communities we support this year with the launch of our mental health transport service, which has enabled us to look after hundreds of people who have needed our help,” he said.
Health Minister Eluned Morgan said that ambulance services and staff in Wales were “under great strain due to the impact of the pandemic and winter pressures”.
“We are determined to support the NHS – and all its staff – in every way we can. Investing in the ambulance service shows our commitment to ensuring people can access high-quality emergency care when they need it the most,” she said.
“Ambulance clinicians and staff have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic. I want to thank them for everything they have done to care for people.”
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