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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 September 2007, 15:33 GMT 16:33 UK
More rapid response to 999 calls
One of the new ambulance fleet
New ambulances are part of the trust's modernisation programme
There has been a big improvement in ambulance service response times in Wales, official figures have confirmed.

The service reached 66% of the most serious emergency calls within eight minutes, up from 56.2% previously.

A total of 87.9% of emergency calls were reached within target times, compared to 79.1% earlier in the year.

While a paramedic may respond within the allocated time, a union is worried that patients still have long waits for ambulances to take them to hospital.

A spokesperson for the Welsh Ambulance Service said the improvement had been achieved by a "root and branch" modernisation programme under chief executive Alan Murray.

Mr Murray, who was appointed just over a year ago, said last month he had helped restore some "pride and credibility" in the service.

There are concerns that the figures are being bolstered by rapid response vehicles, which is a good thing, it means we're getting to more patients quicker
Tony Chatfield

Unison's Tony Chatfield, branch secretary for the ambulance service in south Wales, said his members had been "working hard" to turn the service around.

But he said there were some worries that in some cases patients were being treated initially by paramedics and could be left waiting some time for the ambulance needed to get them to hospital.

"There are concerns that the figures are being bolstered by rapid response vehicles, which is a good thing, it means we're getting to more patients quicker," he said.

"But it does leave, on occasions, patients waiting for ambulance transportation to hospital for further treatment, which is very often what is required."

Mr Chatfield said what was outlined in the modernisation plan was "very good" and he hoped the programme would help reduce the need for so many patients to be taken to hospital.

Health Minister Edwina Hart praised the "hard work" of health service staff.

"I am pleased that these figures show how the dedication of ambulance service staff is helping to meet the targets set by the assembly," she said.

An ambulance service spokesman said ambulances were arriving at calls more rapidly and the "trend is upwards".

Earlier, it emerged that patients were regularly waiting more than 50 minutes in ambulances outside A&E departments in south east Wales.

The ambulance service confirmed that an average of 106 vehicles a week had waited more than 50 minutes to deliver patients over the previous three months.

The University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff blamed bed blocking and people needlessly turning up at casualty.


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