More than 600 people have been taken to hospital in police cars in Wales over the last three years because ambulances were not available, Plaid Cymru can reveal.
The startling statistics were obtained following a Freedom of Information request by The Party of Wales.
In South Wales the number of people taken to hospital by police car more than doubled from 83 in 2012-13 to 187 – more than three every week – in the last financial year. There were 51 recorded in Gwent in 10 months of 2013-14 and 19 in North Wales. Dyfed Powys Police was unable to provide figures.
Among the injuries and illnesses suffered by people taken by police car falls in street, attempted suicide, injured after an assault, drunk with an eye injury, collapsed, head injury, stabbing, overdoses, self-harm and hypothermia.
Elin Jones, Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Health Spokesperson, said:
“The Welsh Ambulance Service continues to face real challenges in turning itself around and clearly improvements must be made. It cannot be acceptable that, for instance, three people on average a week in South Wales are being taken to hospital by police car.
“My fear is that one day someone may die in a police car while on the way to hospital because an ambulance is not available. There clearly needs to be better management within the NHS so that vehicles aren’t tied up waiting at hospitals. For too long the ambulance service hasn’t been given enough priority by the Welsh Government.
“What is shocking is that in 2009 the Welsh Ambulance Service blamed severe weather and Christmas and the New Year period for issues in Gwent and said it was working to resolve the issues. Now, we are five years on and the problem still exists and in South Wales the situation is worsening.”
Last month Plaid Cymru councillor Paul James came to the aid of a holiday-maker who had suffered a fall on Aberystwyth’s North Parade. After calling police officers who administered first aid, an ambulance did not appear. Further enquiries revealed that the closest available vehicle was in New Quay – over 40 minutes from the scene. The patient was taken to Bronglais Hospital, Aberystwyth by the police.