The Health Minister, Mark Drakeford, has told AMs that "sustained extreme weather conditions" explain why only 52.8% of ambulances responding to category A emergencies last month got to the patient within the eight minute target. He was answering an urgent question in the Senedd.
It ill-behoves us, sitting here in the comfort of the National Assembly, to take no account of the conditions which people delivering those services faced during February.
– Health Minister Mark Drakeford AM
Kirsty Williams, for the Liberal Democrats, said that the Welsh Government had not been able to deliver the ambulance service that Wales needs and deserves. The Conservatives and Plaid Cymru both argued that ambulance times should not have got worse since January, when there was also bad weather.
The Minister said there had been a cumulative effect and he had come close to suspending response time targets altogether on police advice. Earlier today he announced new targets, for how soon a patient receives effective treatment, which he said were more relevant than ambulance response times.
The eight minute target does nothing to help outcomes for the patients... [but] ...as we have moved out of February and into March the performance has improved.
The Health Minister, Mark Drakeford, has said that the new targets in the NHS will measure the real difference that effective treatment makes to patients and will be more meaningful than simple time-based targets, such as the maximum eight minute wait for an emergency ambulance.
I want us to judge the success of our services by measuring things which make a difference to patients and the effectiveness of the treatment they receive. This development work will make sure that what we measure is more meaningful in terms of clinical benefit and outcomes for patients, rather than on the basis of time alone.
The eight minute ambulance target is in many ways an arbitrary figure rather than being based on patient or clinical evidence. We will be sharing the results of the development work widely and will be holding public discussions on the findings before any decisions about future measures.
– Health Minister Mark Drakeford AM
Between April 2014 and March 2015, the new targets will run alongside existing ones. They will cover emergency treatment, with new measures for cancer treatment and planned care to be introduced later this year.
We will be working with clinicians to develop measures of urgent and emergency care which make sense to people using these services and which give a clearer sense of quality of care. Like other measures of safety and quality in Wales, we will make these transparently available to allow people to see easily how their local health service is doing.
– Dr Grant Robinson
Dr Robinson is the Welsh Government's clinical lead for improvement in unscheduled care.
The Welsh NHS is to look at new ways of measuring whether patients get timely and effective treatment, which it's claimed can be more important than simple targets such as an ambulance responding within eight minutes or the wait in A&E lasting no more than four hours.
During a year long trial, starting next month, the new targets will be set in addition to the existing ones before a review decides which are needed in future. Officials in charge of the trial have highlighted three key measures.
The time before a patient who's suffered a heart attack caused by blood clots receives clot-busting drugs. The target will be one hour after the 999 call.
The time before a stroke patient has undergone the "stroke care bundle" series of tests and been given a scan. The trial will help to refine what the target should be. Research in London suggests that a scan within four hours is needed.
How soon a patient with a broken hip is given effective pain relief. Again the trial will be used to decide what the target should be.
Diagnosis and initial treatment is frequently done by paramedics. If the patient then needs to go to hospital, it's hoped to by-pass A&E more often in future and go straight to the appropriate specialist medical team. One benefit would be fewer ambulances queuing outside casualty departments.
The health minister Mark Drakeford has said the ambulance service must meet the challenges it faces. It comes after ITV News revealed last night that long lines of ambulances were waiting outside Wales' biggest hospital - The University hospital of Wales.
Concerns were raised last night after reports that queues of ambulances were waiting outside the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff for hours to transfer patients.
A member of the public contacted ITV Cymru Wales claiming around 14 vehicles were outside A&E with patients inside.
Today Cardiff & The Vale University Health Board has denied that claim.
The board says at it's busiest point there were several ambulances outside and that was for less than an hour's wait.
A spokesman told ITV Cymru Wales 91 per cent of patients were seen within four hours and nobody waited for more than 12 hours.
The board says it is coping well during the busiest period of the year and it has not had to cancel any elective operations and wishes to reassure the public and thank staff for managing the demands on them.
The McClelland Review of the Welsh Ambulance Service was clear that a shift is needed to targets which measure outcomes for patients. That is what we are now doing in Wales.In the meantime, the Welsh Ambulance Service continues to display real resilience in the face of growing demands and the start of winter pressures.The figures are a testament to the hard work of paramedics and ambulance Trust staff who are often criticised for failing to achieve a target that is only very weakly backed by evidence.”