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Ambulance terror response fears in Wales over hospital delays

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Liam Randall, Local Democracy Reporter

AMBULANCE chiefs in Wales say they may not be able to respond properly to terror attacks because of hospital handover delays.

It follows a report highlighting the risk of “catastrophic harm” to the public if crews are busy at A&E departments during major incidents – this includes concerns about the availability of ambulances following a fire on a ferry heading to Fishguard last year.

The Welsh Ambulance Service service raised concerns after a mass-casualty simulation found it would have failed to provide an adequate response three out of four times.

The Welsh government said it expected health boards to prioritise cutting handover delays.

The tests were conducted after the Manchester Arena bombing public inquiry.

That found a host of failings by emergency services in the attack’s aftermath.

The warning follows the service’s claims some medics could not to respond to an explosion at Treforest Industrial Estate, in Rhondda Cynon Taf, in December 2023 because they were stuck outside Morriston Hospital, Swansea.

A major incident was declared after the blast in which a woman died.

Next week a report will be given to the ambulance service board alleging hospital officials failed to release crews from the hospital site.

Swansea Bay University Health Board denied this, saying ambulances were freed.

The ambulance service has questioned the effectiveness of release procedures.

Chief executive Jason Killens has written to Welsh health boards for assurances.

It fears it may not be able to respond to them properly because of hospital handover delays
The ambulance service fears: It may not be able to respond properly because of hospital handover delays

The ambulance report said if a major incident was declared there was a risk an “effective, timely, or safe response” may not happen.

“(This would result in) catastrophic harm (death) and a breach of the trust’s legal obligation,” it said.

The main reason for this was “lost capacity due to hospital handover delays”, over which, it said, it had no control.

It added it was not assured hospitals had plans to release ambulances effectively.

Welsh Ambulance Service operations chief Lee Brooks said it had plans to deliver an effective response to major incidents.

He recognised handover delays were a problem.

“Our ability to send a large-scale response to an incident may be hindered if our people and vehicles are not immediately released by emergency departments,” Mr Brooks said.

The report also highlighted two other occasions where the service had been concerned about ambulances not being released.

These included the fire on the Fishguard in 2023 ferry as well as a gas explosion in Swansea the month after.

Swansea Bay health board said it took its responsibilities seriously and had major incident plans.

Jason Killens
Welsh Ambulance Service boss Jason Killens says as many as 30,000 hours are lost each month due to waits to transfer patients to hospital

“These include agreed protocols to enable the rapid release of ambulances from the emergency department in the event that a major incident is declared,” it said.

“We can confirm that on the evening of the Treforest Industrial Estate fire our major incident plan was invoked and that we did release ambulances.”

Handover delays were raised in the Senedd last week after the health committee was told ambulance crews often see only one patient a shift.

Mr Killens said as much as 30,000 hours were lost monthly in Wales due to waiting to transfer patients to hospital.

Patient safety was at risk, he said, with handover times averaging more than two hours. The target is 15 minutes.

Sam Rowlands MS, Welsh Conservative Shadow Health Minister said: “It’s not good enough for the Labour Welsh Government to just ‘expect’ Health Boards to solve handover delays.

“We need substantial reform of the entire health system to clear the backlogs of getting patients out of hospital as well as in.

“Our Welsh Conservative plan of NHS reservists, along with care hospitals will deliver that immediate support needed to enable the Ambulance Service to save lives.”

The Welsh government said it expected health boards to cut patient handover delays as a priority over the next six months.

It said this year it was investing an extra £180m to help health boards and regional partnership boards manage more people in the community and avoid ambulances and hospital admission.

News

Freemens Way closed by police after fears for person’s welfare

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FREEMENS WAY in Haverfordwest was closed briefly on Saturday (Jun 15) after members of the pubic became concerned for the welfare of a person on the bridge above.

Dyfed-Powys Police after they received a call expressing a concern for the welfare of a person on the bridge at around 3.55pm.

Police confirmed to The Pembrokeshire Herald that they closed Freemen’s Way for around 20 minutes before it was reopened.

A spokesperson for Dyfed-Powys Police said: “Police received a call for a concern for the welfare of an individual at approx. 3.55pm Saturday June 15, on the bridge at Freemans Way.

“The road was closed for approx. 20 minutes before being re-opened. The individual was left in the care of family.”

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Tributes paid to Pembrokeshire RNLI stalwart, Jeffrey Thompson

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ON TUESDAY (Jun 18), the funeral of former St Davids Lifeboat crew member Jeffrey Thompson was held at Seion Baptist Chapel, New Street, St Davids. Jeffrey passed away on 2nd June at Withybush Hospital, leaving behind his wife, Nina. He was a cherished father, grandfather, brother, family member, and friend.

Jeffrey began his service at St Davids RNLI lifeboat station in 1975, initially as a member of the shore crew for 11 years. In 1986, he joined the all-weather lifeboat crew. By 1995, he had risen to the position of deputy second coxswain, a role he held until his retirement in 2002.

The crew at St Davids RNLI expressed their sorrow at Jeffrey’s passing, stating, “St Davids RNLI is saddened to learn of the recent death of former crew member Jeffrey Thompson. He gave an incredible 27 years of service. We send Jeff’s family our condolences at this sad time.”

Former St Davids Lifeboat coxswain, Dai Chant, paid tribute, saying, “Jeff was one of my top crew members and a man you could rely on in bad weather shouts. May he rest in peace.”

Will Chant, the current coxswain and son of Dai Chant, shared his memories: “When I started in 1996, Jeff was a fantastic crew member to have as a mentor. He was humble, always gave you his time, and was steadfast in the most demanding of situations. A calm but assured figure on the crew, brilliant on the deck, and a great rope worker. If the lifeboat needed to tow a vessel, he was the man to operate the deck. He made rope mats for the lifeboat station and even repaired a flagpole using his rope whipping skills. A keen countryman, he would fish the local waters on his boat and also shoot for game birds. Jeff worked in the merchant navy and for Stena Europe for many years.”

Jeffrey’s former neighbour, Paul Sage, who grew up alongside him in Heol Dewi, St Davids, fondly remembered a time in the 60s when Jeffrey brought a monkey home from his time at sea. “He spent most of his life at sea in the Merchant Navy. He loved being outdoors, shooting, and fishing,” Paul said. “He was a hell of a character, always leg-pulling and joking. A lovely character.”

Jeffrey’s funeral took place at 11.30 am today. Donations, if desired, can be made to the Paul Sartori Foundation via WG Bernard Matthias & Daughter, 62 New Street, St Davids, SA62 6SU.

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Business

First Cymru bus workers secure 11.6% pay increase

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UNITE, the UK’s leading union, has secured an inflation busting 11.6 per cent pay increase for bus drivers employed by First Cymru.

The 300 plus drivers operate buses in South and West Wales working from depots in Swansea, Bridgend, Ammanford, Port Talbot, Carmarthen and Haverfordwest.

The pay deal, which was hammered out through long and detailed negotiations, will see pay increase by 11.6 per cent over a six month period. In addition, there will also be improvements in overtime and weekend rates.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “This is an excellent result and demonstrates the power of having Unite in your corner to improve jobs, pay and conditions.”

Unite regional co-ordinating officer Sarah Davies said: “Unite will be looking to build on this significant pay deal in future negotiations.

“Our members at First Cymru recognise the importance of being represented by Unite and all workers looking for a better deal should join Unite and get their colleagues to join too.”

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