Thousands of English 999 calls are being handled by the Welsh Ambulance Service
Thousands of 999 calls are being transferred to the Welsh Ambulance Service because they are taking more than five minutes to answer in England.
More than 50,000 calls – 1.2 per cent of all made – were sent to a different ambulance service than the one intended between October and the middle of February, under a new system of routing unanswered calls was introduced.
It automatically diverts calls which have not been answered after five minutes, rerouting them to services with current capacity, while a BT operator remains on the line until the call is answered.
Responses to an freedom of information request from the Health and Safety Journal revealed the Welsh Ambulance Service took 8,094 calls during that period, while none of its own calls were sent elsewhere.
The Scottish service took 47 calls and had 100 of its own diverted elsewhere, while the Northern Ireland service had 96 calls routed elsewhere but answered none for other services……
More than half of the diverted calls in the four and a half month period took place in December, when ambulance services faced extreme pressure.
South of England
Services in the south of England accounted for most of these, with more than 10,000 transferred from the London Ambulance Service and nearly 6,000 from the South East Coast Ambulance Service in December.
The Welsh Ambulance Service explained it records details from the transferred caller, prioritises the response level and provides lifesaving instructions if required, including having access to a national database of defibrillators.
However, it is unable to despatch ambulances outside its area and does not provide clinical assessment.
Instead the details are transferred electronically into the “home” trust’s computer-aided despatch system.
It added it had not had to expand its call handling capacity to deal with the transferred calls.
NHS England said additional funds had been made available to ambulance trusts from October last year – when the rerouting scheme was introduced – while “internal recharging mechanisms” to cover the cost of responding to diverted calls were developed.
Support our Nation today
For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.