I would like to thank front line staff for their hard work and skill during what was a very challenging December. Last month saw record high demand on the ambulance service, the highest number of attendance at emergency departments for any December and record numbers of emergency admissions for over 75 year olds.
There has been a welcome reduction in delayed transfers of care but too many patients are spending long periods in emergency departments waiting for a hospital bed. We want Health Boards to work with partners to improve the flow of patients through the hospital system and out into the community, and I have made an extra £10m available to support improvement in this area.
The ambulance service faced significant pressure, with average daily ‘red calls’ increasing to the highest on record and exceeding 100 for the first time. We are disappointed the target was not achieved although more patients in the red category received a response within the target time than last December.
Demand on emergency departments is also affecting the delivery of planned treatments at hospitals. This is being made worse by doctors reducing their hours because of changes to HMRC pension tax rules by the UK Government. By the end of December, this had led to about 3,200 sessions lost, affecting nearly 27,000 patients. I have called on the UK Government to resolve this matter urgently.
Our hard-working, dedicated NHS staff have been working tirelessly throughout the year and it is clear demand is only set to grow. For that reason we need to transform the way we deliver health and social care in the future. As well as the short-term measures I have announced today, we are investing £100m through our Transformation Fund to develop new models of care, to create a sustainable health and social care for the future.