An ambulance service has warned of “difficult” months ahead after it declared an “extraordinary incident” at the weekend.
The Welsh Ambulance Service declared the incident overnight amid delays to patient handovers at hospitals, particularly in the Swansea Bay health board area, but it has since been stood down on Monday.
The executive director of operations at the Welsh Ambulance Service, Lee Brookes, said “significant pressure” remained.
“When crews are tied up at emergency departments, they’re not able to respond to other 999 calls, which is why some patients in the community are waiting a long time for our help, sometimes many hours,” he said.
Mr Brookes said that it wasn’t the emergency service it wanted to provide and the service was “deeply sorry” to patients who “had a poor experience”.
He said the decision to declare an incident was not one the service took lightly and the issue of hospital handovers was an issue “not unique to Wales”.
The ambulance service would welcome “whatever intervention” could be made by health boards and the Welsh government to improve the situation as winter approached, Mr Brookes added.
“What is clear is that bold decisions are required because doing what we have always done is unlikely to change the outcome – it’s why we’re thinking very differently about the shape of the ambulance service of the future,” he added.
The Welsh Conservatives – the largest opposition party in the Senedd – said it was a “wider Labour failure” to run the NHS in Wales.
A Welsh government spokesperson said despite facing “the toughest financial situation since devolution”, it had protected the NHS budget in Wales.
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Shadow health minister, Russell George, accused Labour of having “the wrong priorities”.
The Welsh government said it was “concerned” about the levels of delays to patient handovers at Morriston Hospital in Swansea and at sites across Wales.
“We are seeking assurance about the actions taken by health boards to de-escalate ongoing pressures, caused by an increase in demand and patient flow issues,” a spokesperson said.
“We will continue to monitor the situation closely.”