Level of Welsh ambulance calls ‘returning to normal’ following significant drop during coronavirus pandemic
The level of ambulance calls in Wales is slowly returning to normal after a significant drop in 999 activity during the coronavirus pandemic, it’s been revealed.
The Welsh Ambulance Service said incidents crews would normally deal with fell after lockdown restrictions were introduced in March, with the number of car crashes alone reducing by half.
The amount of people suffering falls also lessened as COVID-19 related calls took up the majority of paramedics’ time.
However, the ambulance trust’s chief executive said the frequency of emergencies was now beginning to rise once more.
Speaking at a virtual board meeting held via Zoom yesterday, Jason Killens said: “As the pandemic started and the initial lockdown came in we saw a dramatic reduction in activity, particularly in the 999 service.
“That has, in part through the peak of pandemic, been superseded by COVID related work.
“They do remain prevalent in the community now, but that’s probably half of what it was during the peak in April.
“What we have seen in the last 14 days or so is a steady increase back to normal in the 999 service.
“We’re starting to see an increase in calls for chest pains, strokes and road traffic collisions, which had seen a drop off in the early stages of the pandemic.
“We have been very clear that the NHS is very much open for business and our message is very simple: if you are seriously ill or injured then you should dial 999 and we will come and provide the necessary and appropriate treatment.”
Ambulance crews are currently attending between 120 to 150 coronavirus related calls a day.
Despite this, the service has been able to maintain its performance in reaching serious life threatening incidents within eight minutes at over 70 per cent during May.
Mr Killens said he wanted to thank staff for their work throughout the crisis, acknowledging the personal risks they have taken.
He also paid tribute to Swansea-based paramedic Gerallt Davies who died from the virus last month.
He said: “A big thank you to all of our people who have been working really hard in very difficult circumstances over the last eight to ten weeks.
“Many of our staff have been personally affected by the coronavirus and there was the tragic loss of one of our own some weeks ago.
“We’ve had a number of staff in intensive care and away from work as a result of the virus, so it’s touched us as it’s touched every part of the community.”
The service has put in a number of safety measures to protect workers and has received a delivery 15,000 microguard suits brought in via air freight in the last ten days.
In addition, screens have been installed between desks within Welsh call centres.
This week the trust has also highlighted a number of cases where patients have become aggressive to crews after being asked to wear face masks.
Mr Killens warned those responsible that such incidents will not be tolerated.
He said: “We are very clear that assaults, violence and aggression against our people are never acceptable and there is never an excuse.
“We do pursue aggressively, with the police and the Crown Prosecution Service, appropriate sanctions for those that do assault our people.
“I think it’s true to say that here in Wales we have seen stronger sentences when assaults do occur.”
By Liam Randall – BBC Local Democracy Reporter (more here on the LDR scheme)
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