A former Withybush Hospital director says urgent action is needed after he had to provide overnight care for two neighbours who were unable to get an ambulance.

Pembrokeshire-based Dr Iain Robertson-Steel, who went back to work during the pandemic before resuming his retirement, had to drive two members of his community to hospital in the space of a week.

In the first case, a suspected heart attack, Dr Robertson-Steel was told if the incident was so serious to drive the patient to hospital, and if they get in trouble along the way, to stop in a layby and call 999.

In the second instance a 94-year-old-man hit his head and fell on the floor at 10 o'clock at night and the ambulance did not arrive until four in the morning.

Dr Robertson-Steel, who retired in 2018, said: “This is not due to Covid. Covid has made the situation much worse, but the problems are happening every winter. I have been a doctor for 40 years. It’s the same every winter but every winter it gets worse.

“The key issue is getting our politicians, the First Minister, the health minister and others, to recognise the scale of the problem, take steps, not write plans and reports, but to take steps to recruit more staff in social care, health care and get it sorted.”

He added: “Patients are at a serious disadvantage here, bearing in mind Withybush does not have a cardiac unit, so if you have a heart attack you have to go to Morriston Hospital, so people living in rural areas; that’s Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire, are seriously disadvantaged by ambulance delays.

“The government has to decide what the social and health care strategy is going to be and they have to make sure we can offer effective and reliable care.”

He added: “As a retired senior doctor in a position to speak out I really need to make it clear to the government we need to resolve the issue of why the health service is failing. This is crunch time.”

READ MORE: Wales' newest hospital 'cannot cope' with number of patients, staff say

The Welsh Government has responded by saying it continues to invest in the NHS having spent £240m as part of its 'Covid recovery plan', as well as £25m in annual funding to improve emergency care services.

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “It remains the responsibility of local health boards to plan and deliver healthcare services which meet the needs of the communities they serve.

“We’ve delivered record numbers of NHS staff, with a 53% increase over the last 20 years. Our GP incentive scheme has helped fill training places in rural areas, like Pembrokeshire, and we have increased training places for nurses by 68% over the last five years.”

Dr Brendan Lloyd, executive medical director at the Welsh Ambulance Service, said: “We apologise to the two patients that Dr Robertson-Steel came to the aid of.

READ MORE: NHS pay: Nurses' union in government trade dispute

“Hospital handover delays coupled with staff absence and high levels of demand for our services have significantly hampered our ability to get to patients quickly.

“We continue to do all we can to provide a safe and high quality service, which from this week will include the re-enlisting of the military to support us through the busy winter period.”

Hywel Dda Health Board, who the government says is in charge of local health provision, said the whole workforce was working to manage pressures which included trialling new working practices.

Deputy chief executive and medical director, Dr Philip Kloer, said: “There are several pressures that we are facing currently and cumulatively which are resulting in delays for both people currently in hospital waiting to be discharged, and those waiting to be admitted.

“These pressures are caused by a combination of ongoing Covid demands, which are particularly affecting Withybush Hospital at this time; a high demand for other unscheduled care; reduced care home capacity; and staffing shortfalls.

"We are trialling new ways of working, such as same day emergency care, which helps patients get assessed and have access to the care they need more quickly.

"We are also setting up additional rapid access clinics."

It's advised anyone who has had a bad experience, to contact the health board or Welsh Ambulance Service, so they can look into their cases.

If you value The National's journalism, help grow our team of reporters by becoming a subscriber.