AMBULANCE crews spent the equivalent of more than 300 days waiting to admit patients to hospital over the Christmas period across Wales, while the percentage of ‘immediately life-threatening’ calls also skyrocketed.
The Welsh Ambulance Service has urged the public to only call 999 in an emergency due to the high levels of demand.
Between Tuesday, December 20 and Tuesday, December 27, 1,532 ‘red’ calls – which are the most urgent, immediately life-threatening cases – were made, according to figures supplied by the ambulance service.
This rose from 946 during that period last year.
Despite the rise in the most urgent calls, the number of calls received by the ambulance service during this period rose from 10,138 to 10,327.
One reason for this figure staying at roughly the same level may be because of ambulance staff striking on December 20 and 21 this year.
The figures show that although fewer patients were taken to hospital this Christmas week compared to the previous year, crews spent much longer waiting to hand over patients.
In 2021, the number of patients taken to hospital was 3,902, with crews waiting for 2,777 hours outside hospital at an average wait time of 42 minutes and 42 seconds.
This year, 3,286 patients were taken to hospital, with crews spending a total of 7,472 hours waiting (just over 311 days) to hand over patients – at an average hand over time of two hours, 16 minutes and 27 seconds.
Eighteen per cent of red calls this Christmas were because of breathing problems, while 1,386 (13 per cent) were due to falls. Patients suffering chest pains made up nine per cent of red calls.
Last Christmas saw coronavirus cases again on the rise, with Wales put under alert level two restrictions from Boxing Day.
The majority of red calls between December 20 and 27, 2021, were recorded as ‘Pandemic flu’ – 1,384 calls (14 per cent).
Falls accounted for 11 per cent of red calls in 2021, while nine per cent of red call patients reported suffering from chest pains.
A Welsh Ambulance Service spokesperson said: “The number of ‘red’ calls in the last seven days was 62 per cent higher than the same period last year.
“We’re asking the public only to call 999 in a serious or life-threatening emergency to protect our precious resources for those who need us most.
“For everything else, we’re asking people to visit the NHS 111 Wales website where they can check symptoms, find out what’s wrong and next steps to take.”