THE Welsh Ambulance Service received more calls for the most life-threatening emergencies in December than any other month on record.

New NHS figures also show one day last month was “the busiest day for NHS Wales on record”, the Welsh Government said.

The figures come amid warnings of ongoing pressures in the health service, but there are continued signs that waiting lists are getting shorter.

But opposition parties, who this week failed in a bid to get the Senedd to declare a national health crisis, said they did not expect the situation to improve under the government’s current approach.

This comes as ambulance staff in Wales went on strike today, Thursday, in the latest in a series of walkouts in a row over pay.

The latest Wales-wide figures, for November and December, show:

  • Paramedics received nearly 6,000 “red” calls for the most serious emergencies – the highest ever made in a month (December);
  • Ambulance crews responded to just 39 per cent of “red” calls within an eight-minute window – the lowest on record, well below the government’s 65 per cent target;
  • More than 2,800 people attended an A&E department on an average day, and the number of patients seen within four hours fell to its lowest on record;
  • Typically, A&E patients in December waited for three hours and two minutes before being treated, triaged or discharged;
  • Waiting lists for treatment fell by 6,000 to around 748,000 in November – in terms of patients, this is around 3,100 fewer people waiting to be treated compared with October;
  • Around 1,750 more people started cancer treatment in November than in October.

What's been said about the situation?

A Welsh Government spokesperson said the nation’s NHS was “still under enormous pressure”, but “progress continues to be made on the longest waits” for treatment.

“December was an [exceptional] month and demand on the ambulance service and emergency departments remained high,” they added, announcing 75 more workers would boost paramedic numbers from this week.

“Whilst we acknowledge emergency care performance is not where we expect it to be, we are driving system improvements, including extending same-day emergency care services to open seven-days a week, improving management of 999 patients on the phone, and recruiting more staff,” the government spokesperson added.

But critics argue for more drastic change.

Russell George, the Conservatives’ shadow health minister, urged the Welsh Government to get a grip on the NHS and resolve pay disputes with striking workers.

South Wales Argus: Conservative MS Russell George (left) and Plaid Cymru's Rhun ap Iorwerth have led criticism of the Welsh Government.Conservative MS Russell George (left) and Plaid Cymru's Rhun ap Iorwerth have led criticism of the Welsh Government. (Image:

“The latest statistics show Wales recording its slowest-ever ambulance response times and Britain’s worst A&E waits and longest waiting list – I am certain this will not meaningfully change any time soon under Labour’s current approach,” he said.

“Patients cannot be allowed to suffer with our public services at a standstill and staff cannot be expected to burnout because Labour ministers cannot get their act together.”

Rhun ap Iorwerth, Plaid Cymru’s health spokesman, said the Welsh Government “cannot keep doing the same thing and expecting waiting times to drastically improve – this needs new and innovative thinking to change the current trajectory that the NHS is on”.