Gwent Police stand in for ambulances 81 times in one year
7:10am Tuesday 8th January 2013 in News
PEOPLE with injuries including a stab wound to the chest and serious bleeding from the head, are among those Gwent Police have picked up or taken to hospital because no ambulance was available.
They are among 130 medical emergencies attended by police from November 2011-October 2012, 81 of which resulted in a trip to hospital.
On each occasion no ambulance vehicle, be it ambulance or rapid response, was available.
The figures, released by the Welsh Conservative Party following a Freedom of Information (FOI) request, heap more pressure on the Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust (WAST), already the subject of a review ordered by health minister Lesley Griffiths following months of declining performance.
As well as aforementioned cases, Gwent Police also attended medical emergencies such as an incident where an assault may have resulted in a collapsed lung, incidents of facial injuries, a woman found bleeding from the nose and mouth, a self-inflicted wrist injury, and a diabetes-related illness.
All seven highlighted cases were among the 81 needing a trip to hospital.
Three Welsh forces, Gwent, South Wales and North Wales, responded to the FOI request.
Like-for-like periods were not detailed, but the rate in Gwent appears considerably higher than in South Wales.
In the latter force area, police attended 30 medical emergencies instead of the ambulance service during May-November last year, with 13 people taken to hospital.
The rate of such instances in the South Wales is less than half of that here, based on the 12-month Gwent figure.
Examples from other parts of Wales include overdoses, a haemorrhaging woman in labour, and an elderly man who collapsed following a stroke.
A Gwent Police spokesman said the force works closely with emergency services taking "all necessary and appropriate steps to put the safety and wellbeing of members of the public first."
“Officers dealing with fast moving emergency situations do sometimes need to transport casualties to hospital rather than wait for an ambulance."
There is ongoing work to reduce instances where the police take people to hospital, and a trust spokesman said: "WAST and all four Welsh police forces are in frequent contact and building on the close relationship in support of each other and their staff.”
ARGUS COMMENT: Shocking to see figures
IT IS PERHAPS news to noone that our ambulance service in Wales leaves a lot to be desired.
Emergency response times have rarely been out of the headlines and the service is currently the subject of a review ordered by Health Minister Lesley Griffiths following months of declining performance.
But the result of a Freedom of Information request revealing the number of times police officers are taking injured or sick people to hospital because no ambulance is available are quite shocking.
We can perhaps understand that if police turn up at a crime scene and find someone badly injured their automatic response may well be to take that person to hospital straightaway.
But we would expect that to be a rare occurrence.
However, in Gwent police took people to hospital on 81 occasions in a year because no ambulance vehicle, be it ambulance or rapid response, was available.
That is just not good enough.
The ambulance service may argue that it is overstretched, but the same could also be said of our police force.
Let’s state clearly this is not an attack on ambulance staff, who we feel do a firstclass job. But there is obviously a flaw in the management of the service for its systems to break down with such worrying regularity.