It’s no secret there are huge problems with the Welsh Ambulance Service. I had a frank discussion with chief executive Jason Killens on Friday and he was very open. He acknowledged the service is well short of where it ought to be and people in the Monmouth constituency are being let down. There are several reasons for this; the main ones being a 10 per cent staff shortage and slow hospital handover times. I will be calling on Aneurin Bevan University Health Board to look at how long ambulances have to queue outside emergency departments while they wait for bed space to open up. It should take just 15 minutes to transfer patients but the average is 90 minutes – although there have been reports of patients being stuck in the back of an ambulance for hours on end.
The ambulance service is looking at getting more crews on the streets with support from the army and is using a private provider to assist with helping non-injured fallers, such as when the elderly have a fall but can’t pick themselves up. However, I believe it’s time for the Welsh Government to recognise we have a fully blown ambulance crisis in Wales and to warn the public that they should – if at all possible – find alternative ways of getting to hospital. The new Grange University Hospital in Llanfrechfa has previously said it won’t accept walk-ins and I think serious conversations need to be had with the health board that people are going to have to arrive by car or taxi because ambulances are not available.
I also met with members of Covid-19 Bereaved Families Cymru on Friday and fully support their calls for a Wales specific inquiry into Welsh Government policies during the pandemic. There are concerns that the review of decisions taken by ministers in Cardiff Bay will get lost if they only form part of the UK-wide public inquiry – which the UK Government has already committed to. There’s a responsibility for ALL government ministers to be upfront about how they could have done things better, bearing in mind they did not have the benefit of hindsight we have now. This is an opportunity to learn from the mistakes of the past and while an inquiry will not bring back lost loved ones, it will give grieving families answers. However, a public inquiry like this will only work if political differences are put aside. There are serious questions Wales as a nation needs to address if we are to resolve the problems the pandemic has exposed. If we get it right, there is a good chance we could save lives next time.
*Published in the Monmouthshire Beacon on 10 November 2021 and the Abergavenny Chronicle on 11 November 2021*