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Last Updated: Tuesday, 7 August 2007, 08:12 GMT 09:12 UK
'999 pride restored' says chief
Response targets have improved since Alan Murray took over
The head of the Welsh Ambulance Service has said he has helped restore some pride and credibility after one year in the job.

Alan Murray was appointed 12 months ago, after a crisis which saw several bosses quit.

Performance rates have improved, hitting assembly targets, although still lagging behind England's and new ambulances have been introduced.

But a union has warned that more hard work is essential to maintain progress.

The service had failed to meet response time targets and went through a series of chief executives before Mr Murray was appointed a year ago.

In March this year, the service was branded "appalling" and "unacceptable" in a report by a committee of AMs.

The Welsh Ambulance Services Trust was also heavily criticised in the reports of the auditor-general, the Healthcare Inspectorate Wales and the Wales Audit Office.

But on the anniversary of taking on his job, Mr Murray said modernisation and staff commitment had aided improvements, such as the figures for life-threatening emergencies reached in eight minutes which went from 55.4% at the time of his appointment to 66.3% in April.

Alan Murray
I've spoken to managers who said they've known for years what they needed to do to improve performance in their locality and nobody would let them do it
Alan Murray

The Welsh Assembly Government target for these response times is 60%.

"When we started we were getting to people with life-threatening emergencies about 48% of the time within eight minutes, we're now well over the Welsh Assembly Government standard of 60.

"Now that's a statistic and it seems unimportant but if I can give you something within that that actually makes sense of it, in May, for example, we got to 315 chest pain patients and cardiac arrest patients more within four minutes than we had the previous May and that's what this is really all about. It's about giving people a chance of survival.

Support and commitment

"We're also getting the follow-up ambulances there much quicker as well. Because in February only 80% of them were getting there within the standard time and in May we get up to almost 94% against the 95% standard."

An increase in the number of rapid response vehicles and the use of GPs in control centres have been introduced under Mr Murray.

A modernisation plan entitled Time To Make a Difference - drawn up in consultation with staff, unions and other healthcare providers - is also set to be implemented in the hope of further improving the service.

But Unison's Tony Chatfield, branch secretary for the ambulance service in south Wales, said the service was not going to change overnight.

"Mr Murray has provided stability at the top whereas before we had a series of leaders in and out of the door," he said.

"(Further improvement) will require support and commitment from politicians at the assembly government as well as everyone at the Welsh Ambulance Service."

He has also formed a modernisation plan which seems to read well but it's about the implementation now and what that means
Tony Chatfield

Mr Murray, who was previously in charge of the Merseyside Ambulance Service, admitted there were still "things in the service that need to be put right" and predicted it would take four years for changes to be implemented and take effect.

He also described his 12-month tenure as "the most difficult but most rewarding" challenge of his career.

"I've spoken to managers who said they've known for years what they needed to do to improve performance in their locality and nobody would let them do it," he said.

"The staff were getting there as fast as they could. The problems were caused by the way the service was led and organised - that resulted in them being late and they were having to apologise for it.

"That had a tremendously detrimental effect on morale."

Alan Murray on the difference it makes hitting targets for reaching life-threatening emergencies

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