The Welsh Ambulance Service is under "immense pressure" and an emergency should be declared, according to the Welsh Conservatives, who will hold a debate on the crisis in the Senedd today.

The Tories are calling on the Welsh Government to publish a "comprehensive" plan to improve ambulance response times, amid growing concerns services could be overwhelmed.

This afternoon, they will also call for the armed forces to be drafted in to support services and drive ambulances, and for efforts to recruit more paramedics to be "redoubled".

Record-high demand on the ambulance service has capped pressures on the NHS, which has to balance the resumption of non-emergency treatments with ongoing measures to limit the spread of coronavirus.

Last month, official figures showed the daily average number of callouts to the Welsh Ambulance Service was at its highest since the pandemic began, and was the third-highest month on record since comparable data was first recorded in 2015.

The number of 'red' calls, signifying the most serious emergencies, was at its highest in more than two years, and as the volume of calls increased so the average response times fell: The percentage of 'red calls' receiving a response within eight minutes was 57.8 per cent in July – down 2.8 per cent on the previous month and below the Welsh Government's 65 per cent target for the twelfth consecutive month.

The latest statistics on ambulance and hospital demand are due to be published on Thursday.

Jason Killens, chief executive of the Welsh Ambulance Service, told The National on Monday that the pandemic had "presented a challenge like no other".

"The last couple of months in particular have meant significant and sustained pressures on our ambulance service," he added. “The Trust is starting to return to some of the arrangements we had in place at the height of the pandemic to better manage the increase in Covid-19 related activity that we’re feeling the impact of once again.

Recent weeks have brought news of several incidents in which people waited hours for ambulances to arrives, including an 83-year-old woman who waited 17 hours for paramedics to arrive, a teenager who spent nine hours on the floor after falling from a horse, and a young footballer who broke his leg during a match and was stranded on the pitch for seven hours.

In this afternoon's debate, both the original Conservative motion and the amendments tabled by other parties recognise the "hard work and dedication" of ambulance staff. But in the Tories' case, they say government must do more to help paramedics. The Welsh Government, in its amendment, will pledge to act "with pace and purpose" to address the impacts on services.

Pressures on the ambulance service are not just being felt in Wales. UK government health secretary Sajid Javid said last week he was keeping a "close watch" on high demand in England, while the Scottish Government said paramedics there will receive support from firefighters and more than 100 members of the military.

In the Senedd yesterday, Tory leader Andrew RT Davies sought clarity from first minister Mark Drakeford on whether talks around the involvement of the military in Wales were a "commitment" or an option.

Drakeford confirmed he had been asked by the Welsh Ambulance Service Trust to seek the military's support, and that the request had been passed on to the Ministry of Defence, which would have the final say.

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