The crisis that engulfed Wales’ ambulance service has been laid bare as it is revealed police cars had to be used several times in just one weekend to take people to hospital.
Across the weekend of the 29 October 2021, 110 incidents were recorded where in:
- 14% of incidents, officers conveyed a patient to hospital;
- 15% of incidents, officers spent an unnecessary amount of time waiting for an ambulance – 50 officers across an estimated total time of 45 hours;
- 25% of incidents, supporting the ambulance service prevented the force from undertaking traditional policing activity; and
- 27% of incidents, police analysis considered the request for police attendance to be inappropriate.
The data was revealed in a presentation for the Cross Party Group on Policing last month where police forces said “time spent by staff dealing with medical emergencies has a direct impact on our ability to respond to emergency calls and keep communities across Wales safe”.
Another case saw South Wales Police officers attending a suspected heart attack because members of the public were not able to get through to the ambulance service.
Although officers eventually managed to contact the ambulance service, the patient was only graded as Amber 1, meaning 6-8 hours delay, compelling the police take the patient to hospital themselves.
The CPG were also told of the impact this had on individual officers from welfare to resources to disciplinary procedures. It has been reported that police medics have sought not to continue in this voluntary role given the increasing frequency of events, and the associated risks that accompany their attendance.
Commenting, Welsh Conservative and Shadow Health Minister Russell George MS said, “There is a reason why we say the ambulance service in Wales is in crisis – because there clearly is one, which is why it was so dispiriting that Labour couldn’t bring themselves to admit it or do anything about it.
“We now hear about a sizeable number of cases where the police had to abandon their duties because the ambulance service could not fulfil theirs. It is not their fault but the Labour Government that lets patients and paramedics down time and time again.
“And although this was at the time of the NHS’ worst-ever performance, it has not much improved, with waiting lists continuing to grow, A&E waits at their third highest levels, and cases of pensioners left on the streets for hours because there are no ambulances around.”