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Message to all staff from Interim Chief Executive Tracy Myhill

Dear colleagues,

Figures published (Wednesday 25 February, 2015) have revealed that our response times to the most urgent calls have improved by an encouraging 5.9% – from a record low 42.57% in December to 48.53% in January. While this still isn’t where it needs to be, it’s a step in the right direction and for that I’m pleased.

January was a difficult month for us, particularly the first two weeks. We took more than 36,870 calls – that’s up by 2,160 calls from the same period last year – and more than a third of those calls required urgent assistance.

While the 48.53% figure is still disappointing, a breakdown of our immediately life-threatening calls (Red 1 and Red 2) reveals that we got to 62.8% of the more serious Red 1 calls in January, which is much closer to where we need to be. I’m hopeful that we can continue to stabilise our performance and go on to demonstrate the real improvements I know everyone is working hard to deliver.

You constantly raise the handover of patients to hospitals as one of our most significant challenges and I’m really pleased to say that in partnership with Local Health Boards, their Chief Executives and myself have agreed national handover guidance which we expect will enable our ambulances to be released in a more timely fashion, and our crews to be better supported whilst looking after patients and waiting for handover to the hospital. I’ll share more information about this soon.

Our focus continues to be providing patients with the right care at the right time, and we know that doesn’t always mean taking them to hospital. With your support we have designed a series of ‘pathways’ to reduce unnecessary hospital admissions and make better use of services in the community.

Among them is the mental health pathway we’re piloting in Cardiff; instead of taking a patient to A&E, paramedics can call the health board’s ‘crisis team’ – mental health professionals available 24 hours a day who can advise on the most appropriate course of action, whether that be referring the patient to their GP, admitting them directly to a hospital unit, or advising the patient over the telephone about how to take their medications correctly, for example.

In Cwm Taf, newly designed ‘care bundles’ mean that patients get a bespoke course of treatment depending on their illness or injury, which might include being admitted straight to a hospital ward, thus bypassing A&E, or being referred to a service in their community, like their local falls team – or it might mean being discharged at scene, freeing up our time to attend the next 999 call.

We’re trialling similar schemes in Aneurin Bevan and early evidence suggests that the number of avoidable hospital admissions has reduced.

We’re doing everything in our gift to deliver a service that the public can be proud of but the public has a role to play too, and we will continue to urge them at every opportunity to ‘Choose Well’ and use our ambulance service appropriately.

I was interviewed this afternoon by BBC Wales, and Gordon Roberts was interviewed for S4C and Radio Cymru, all of which I expect you'll be able to watch on this evening's news. You can also click here to read our statement to the media in full.

The challenges facing our ambulance service should not be underestimated, and I commend you all on a sterling effort to deliver outstanding patient care in what are often very difficult circumstances

Tracy.