UNISON Cymru/Wales has welcomed the announcement of improved ambulance response times, but is calling on the Welsh government to replace them as the key performance indicator for the Welsh Ambulance Service NHS Trust.
With year-on-year demand for emergency ambulance services increasing by 6.2%, UNISON is also calling for unions, the Welsh government and employers to lead a hard-hitting public campaign encouraging patients to think twice before calling 999 for an ambulance.
UNISON ambulance lead in Wales Darron Dupre said: “Eight-minute response times, while important, have no clinical reason or evidence for being the most important performance indicator for any ambulance service.”
“When our brilliant frontline emergency medical response members are saving lives every day – often in the most inspirational and heroic circumstances – it is a devastating blow to get the now-regular monthly attack on their response times.
“UNISON has long campaigned for a clinically-led suite of evidence based performance indicators that show the people of Wales how well the service is performing in terms of patient outcomes and treatment.
“It beggars belief that we continue to place response times as the most important measure and not what happened after the ambulance arrived. This leaves us chasing statistics that place a positive value on a patient dying with a response time inside eight minutes, but less value on excellent patient treatment and survival following arrival outside eight minutes.
“It will take immense political strength and leadership from across the political spectrum to place less importance on the eight-minute response time even though this measure is not currently being hit.
“But it would be the right clinical decision and would be supported by trade unions and clinical leaders from across the emergency care spectrum.
“UNISON, as the leading ambulance union, also has a part to play in promoting the safe and effective use of 999. We need to achieve a broad public consensus that it is not acceptable for 999 clinical contact staff and paramedics to be distracted by individuals with non-life threatening conditions such as scratches, colds and inebriation, which delay the response to immediately life-threatened patients.
“We want to work with the Welsh government, employers and Wales’ half a million trade union members, who we can reach, to educate the public into thinking twice before calling 999 and to consider real alternatives such as NHS Direct Wales.”