STAFF from the Welsh Ambulance Service's Clinical Contact Centres (CCC) have opened up about their 'horrible' experiences of having to tell people they could be waiting hours for an ambulance in an emergency.

The Welsh Ambulance Service (WAS) has previously stated that it is under 'significant pressure'.

This is a common theme throughout the UK - a survey of more than 1,000 adults found around six out of 10 (61%) people were not confident an ambulance would arrive quickly if they needed one.

The poll, carried out by Ipsos for the PA news agency, also found that nearly two-thirds (64%) of people did not have confidence they would be seen quickly in A&E if they needed emergency care.

At the bi-monthly WAS Board meeting held in Wrexham on Thursday, July 28, members were shown a video which detailed CCC staff's experiences of having to deal with what can often be distressing calls.

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This was alongside hearing more about the WAS Trust’s new engagement framework, receiving an update on its Integrated Medium Term Plan and learning about the actions the organisation is taking to mitigate patient harm.

In a video shown to the board - titled 'Impact of current pressures on CCC staff' - two members of staff revealed how they felt about the current situation.

It was described as a 'tiny snapshot that brings to life the reality' of the pressures currently faced by staff.

The first member of staff speaking in the video said: "Even from what it was like during the pandemic, to 2020, it has been getting worse and so that has been harder on all of us.

"When you start your shift and can see how long the calls have been waiting there for and get people phoning back in and saying how long they've been waiting and you have to tell them they will, unfortunately, be waiting even longer, you just have to grit your teeth when you do have to tell them how long they'll have to be waiting. It's really not a pleasant experience."

The National Wales:

Photo: Ambulance waiting times are a big issue for WAS and indeed the whole of the UK at this moment in time.

The second, who joined the CCC during the pandemic said: "It's horrible. It's awful. It's coming in to try and help people and then telling them help is not available for a number of hours or there is no help is the complete opposite of what I came into the job to do.

"I dread it on every call, I start feeling upset getting to that point.

"Listening to some sad, horrible, horrific stuff, being there in that moment trying to keep them calm, I hate telling people it's going to be six hours, it's not what I signed up to do, I wanted to join the service to help people."

In response to hearing these experiences, the board said: "It is emotional and hugely stressful. Over the last two to four years, we have increased the support for staff and I think that is particularly important.

"We may not be able to change the system quite so easily but we can support the staff and I think we've done that."  

During the board meeting, a 'strong and powerful' graphic was also shown to the board, with a blue line said to show the 'decaying' position of performance over time.

It was added that there was a 'direct correlation between that and the pressure that's emerging across the rest of the system', which in turn is impacting 'our ability to respond to patients in the community'.

The National Wales:

Photo: Call centre staff have opened up about their experiences of handling calls regarding ambulance waiting times.

One member of the board said: "I just want to apologise again to patients in the community that have waited longer than they would like over recent months and for poor level services they have experienced."

It was also revealed during the meeting that a bid the WAS Trust had put into the value based healthcare fund for an additional 50 advanced paramedic practitioners had 'regretfully been rejected'.

However, the Welsh Government has announced that it will invest a further £3 million to help improve ambulance response times in Wales.

The funding will also be used to recruit more emergency ambulance staff to help those most seriously ill or injured.

This additional funding will enable the Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust (WAST) to recruit around 100 additional frontline staff and introduce a new ‘Cymru High Acuity Response Unit’ (CHARU) service.

The CHARU service will seek to improve outcomes for people who have suffered cardiac arrest.

It was revealed in the board meeting that new arrangements have been agreed for immediate release directions allowing for more vehicles to be immediately released from the emergency department to a call in the community when absolutely necessary.