AN AMBULANCE worker has branded long waits outside the Grange University Hospital as “soul destroying”.

In recent weeks, Aneurin Bevan University Health Board and the Welsh Ambulance Service have appealed multiple times for people to only call 999 or attend the emergency department at the Grange in life-threatening situations.

And during the week of blistering heat, which saw temperatures rising above 30 degrees, one ambulance worker said there were queues of 14 ambulances waiting to deliver patients to the Grange.

According to the Welsh Ambulance Service, the longest waits for patients to be handed over to the emergency department in July were 13 hours and one minute, 12 hours and 22 minutes, and 10 hours and 45 minutes respectively.


The Grange University Hospital opened in November last year, and is now the sole A&E department in Gwent, with the departments at Newport's Royal Gwent Hospital and Nevill Hall Hospital in Abergavenny now operating as 24-hour Minor Injuries Units.

The health board has said it has seen demand across all of its services increase to “unprecedented levels,” meaning patients were waiting longer to be transferred into the emergency department.

“It’s soul destroying," said the ambulance worker, who asked to remain anonymous. "We don’t want people to be held in ambulances for hours. It does them no good.

“Since the Grange has opened, [the health board] has made promise after promise to get it fixed.

“In the heat, patients were being kept in for hours. You wouldn’t keep animals in a vehicle in that heat, you would be prosecuted. So why is it okay for humans?

“Instead of having two hospitals and spreading the workload out, everything is now going in to one. In the past, if the Gwent got busy, you could go to Nevill Hall and wait for the backlog to go down. There is now no way of diverting that backlog.

“It’s a joke. The ambulance service gets all the bad press, but it’s not their fault.

“I’m fed up of having to apologise to people for the wait when we arrive.”

  • The arrival of a new baby is always a happy time for every family. Share the good news with us and our readers by clicking here to submit information and pictures.

A health board spokesperson said: “Over recent weeks, we’ve seen demand across all of our services increase to unprecedented levels, far beyond the demand experienced prior to the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Unfortunately, this has meant that patients are waiting longer to be transferred into the emergency department than we would want, as we maintain strict Covid-19 infection control measures whilst prioritising the most acutely unwell patients.

“In an attempt to manage this demand, we have introduced a flow centre that operates 24/7, where clinical staff are able to redirect patients to the most appropriate care setting.

“This may be to our newly developed Urgent Primary Care Centres, our enhanced Local General Hospitals, one of our four Minor Injury Units or back to receive care with their GP.

“We have also introduced a number of new clinical pathways to support the demand and ensure patients receive the right care in a timely manner by the most appropriate clinician.

“We are also working very closely with our colleagues within social care to support patients who are currently in our hospital beds, but fit for discharge, requiring additional support at home to allow them to be safely discharged.

“We continue to work with our colleagues in the Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust to ensure the timely transfer of patients into our care, and to release ambulance crews as efficiently as possible to enable them to respond to emergency calls in our communities.”

The health board chose not to comment on the impact of reducing the number of emergency departments in the region.

South Wales Argus: Ambulances outside the emergency department at the Grange University Hospital.Ambulances outside the emergency department at the Grange University Hospital.

Darren Panniers, the Welsh Ambulance Service’s operations manager in the Aneurin Bevan University Health Board area, said: “Hospital handover delays not only delay treatment of patients waiting in an ambulance queue at hospitals, but they also reduce the availability of ambulances to respond to other emergencies in the community.

“The opening of the Grange University Hospital coincided with a second wave of Covid-19, and it was an especially challenging time for the health service.

“The average time that a patient waits from arriving at the emergency department by ambulance to clinical care being fully accepted by the emergency department is higher since the new hospital opened in November 2020, but we continue to work closely with health board colleagues to reduce delays.

“Recently this has meant the introduction of health board-funded patient flow coordinators who communicate with clinical teams inside and outside the hospital to ensure as smooth an admission as possible for the patient.”

Both the health board and ambulance service reiterated that “calling 999 should be for life-threatening emergencies only,” and in the event of non-life-threatening injuries or illness, people should call 111, use symptom checkers on the NHS 111 Wales website, or contact their GP, pharmacist or go to their nearest Minor Injury Unit.