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Last Updated: Tuesday, 13 February 2007, 08:50 GMT
Ambulance special emergency ends
There were 1,400 calls from south east Wales over the weekend
The Welsh Ambulance Service has downgraded its state of "special emergency," after record demand in Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan.

People were urged to dial 999 only in life-threatening cases after calls over the weekend and for most of Monday had reached "unprecedented levels".

But on Monday night, an ambulance service spokesman said the call volume had dropped to "normal levels".

Last week's bad weather was thought to have played a part in the high demand.

The ambulance service said the "major incident special emergency" it had set up was no longer in place.

Throughout the emergency, officials had said anyone with chest pain should call 999 immediately.

It had said that demand for ambulances in south east Wales over the weekend had remained high, with 1,400 calls, and demand had been a similar level on Monday.

Trusts have contingency plans in place to deal with these situations
Welsh Assembly Government spokesman

An ambulance trust spokesman appealed for people to telephone the service only in "extreme emergencies", and in non life-threatening situations to contact NHS Direct instead.

David Lydon, the temporary director of operations for the south east region of the Welsh Ambulance Service NHS Trust, said the situation was an "unprecedented state of affairs".

Mr Lydon said the weekend was the worst he had experienced, and the high volume of demand could be due to the recent weather, or "various illnesses" that were going around.

St John Cymru Wales were asked to provide six emergency crews to assist on Monday night, in addition to three patient transport vehicles the Cardiff and Vale NHS Trust had requested earlier.

Two of the emergency crews assisted in Cardiff, two in the south east Wales area and two in mid Wales.

Senior managers at the University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff met on Monday afternoon to discuss how to cope with the increase in patients over the weekend.

'Increased pressure'

The Welsh assembly government said because of the bad weather at the end of last week, many patients who would otherwise have been released from hospital were kept in on safety grounds, although 98% of hospital discharges across Wales were on time.

A statement said that despite progress in recent months there has been some deterioration in performance in a small number of areas, mainly in south Wales.

It read: "In Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan, we have been assured by the local authorities and NHS organisations that regular meetings are taking place at a senior level to look at how they can work closer together to reduce delays."

The emergency came after a turbulent 12 months for the ambulance service, with changes at the top in management, claims of crisis and response targets being missed.

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