THE ambulance service had to deal with a 22 per cent increase in calls on Monday when demand saw A&E patients facing lengthy waits at the Royal Gwent Hospital and paramedics enduring long handover delays.

At one stage on Monday evening there were nine ambulances and two rapid response vehicles parked outside the hospital’s A&E unit, the Argus revealed yesterday, and relatives were asked to wait outside for a time as corridors were packed with patients on trolleys.

On what was a busy day for the (WAST), and A&E units across South Wales, Nick Smith, Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust’s WAST’s head of service for the Aneurin Bevan University Health Board area, said there was “a 22 per cent increase on the average number of calls received in the health board area in a single day.

“We took more patients to the Royal Gwent Hospital than on any other day since January 1 2014,” he said, confirming that handovers were delayed as a result.

“We are working with all health boards, including Aneurin Bevan University Health Board, to ensure that individual delays are escalated to senior managers at all affected hospitals, and that plans are in place to ensure that delays are minimised.

“On this occasion, we also dispatched one of our clinical team leaders to the hospital to help improve the patient flow.

“Ambulance crews continue to provide clinical care and attention for patients as they wait to be admitted into hospital, and liaise with hospital staff to help prioritise those patients with greatest clinical need.

“Critically ill patients remain our number one priority, and are handed over as quickly and as safely as possible to hospital staff, to avoid further delay and distress.”

The busy scene outside the Royal Gwent on Monday evening was photographed by the relative of a patient, who described A&E as being “jam-packed.”

Demand for ambulance and A&E services has remained high since Monday, and Mr Smith said: “Once again we urge the public to choose well, and use NHS services appropriately. NHS Direct Wales, out-of-hours GP services, and pharmacies are all available for healthcare and advice for minor illnesses and injuries.

“Please remember only to dial 999 if someone is seriously ill or injured, or their life is at risk.”

Figures for Monday night are unavailable, but In recent months around half of all patients taken to hospital by ambulance have ended up not being admitted.

, and health chiefs are keen that people think carefully about whether an ambulance is really needed, before dialling 999, to help ease pressure on already busy services.

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