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Ambulance budget delay cannot be allowed to happen again - Kirsty Williams

November 6, 2012 2:24 PM

Kirsty Williams, Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats will lead an Assembly debate this Wednesday highlighting the Welsh Labour Government's failings in the handling of Wales' ambulance service.

Only last month the Welsh Liberal Democrats exposed the fact that the ambulance service was without an operational budget, despite it being six months into the 2012-13 financial year. This follows statistics recently released that have shown that every month for the last four months the 'All Wales Target' of 65% for immediately life threatening calls to be responded to within 8 minutes has been missed.

The Welsh Liberal Democrats last week tabled a motion calling on the Welsh Labour Government to ensure that a budget for the Ambulance Trust be settled as a matter of urgency. The budget has since been agreed.

The motion will also call on the Welsh Government to outline the role of the ambulance service with regard to service reconfiguration and the impact that it could have on the wider health service budget and performance.

Kirsty Williams commented:

"It is shameful that our Ambulance Trust has had to operate in this way with essentially one hand tied behind its back. People across Wales, in all walks of life, will know that organisations, however big or small, cannot work to the best of their potential if they do not have a set budget. It beggars belief that the only people who don't understand this is the Welsh Labour Government. Once again the Welsh Labour Government is getting the basics wrong.

"The Welsh Labour Government's incompetence forced the Ambulance Trust into a truly unworkable position. It was impossible for the Ambulance service to plan effectively for services when they were left for so long without knowing how much money they had to spend or how much money they would be forced to save by the end of the financial year.

"The First Minister and the Health Minister may have been blissfully unaware of the repercussions of not having a budget but for people in many parts of Wales, the impacts were clear as some areas were left without ambulance cover. This is intolerable.

"What is equally shocking is that it appears that neither the First Minister nor the Health Minister were aware of this ludicrous situation until it was raised by the Welsh Liberal Democrats. This hardly sounds like a government that is in control of our health service.

"I am now, of course, pleased that we have forced this lumbering Welsh Labour Government into action - but sadly it is months too late. It is the people of Wales that have to end up paying for this Welsh Labour Government's mistakes. This shambolic mismanagement has once again rammed home the verdict that Welsh Labour can't be trusted to competently run our NHS.

"Ambulance response times in Wales are notoriously slow. Month after month we are seeing the already low threshold response time target being missed. It is completely unacceptable for the people of Wales to have put up with an inferior ambulance service. Our response time target is already less than in England and Scotland, therefore, why are these targets still being missed?

"It is of concern that while the Welsh Labour Government is happy to force through drastic restructuring of our NHS, which will inevitably lead to ambulances having to travel further distances, this will only amplify the pressures ambulance staff already face. We are seeing both frontline and management staff striving to ensure we have a better ambulance service, but the sad fact remains that the Welsh Labour Government is thwarting any progress. Welsh Labour spends more but delivers less - this amateur recklessness can't be allowed to continue."