Welsh Ambulance Service Welcomes Publication of “Amber Review”

6th November 2018

The Welsh Ambulance Service has welcomed the publication of a new independent report commissioned by the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Services, Vaughan Gething, into the “amber” category of calls made to the ambulance service.

The publication today by the Chief Ambulance Services Commissioner of the clinically-led review is the culmination of work that began in May 2018 to look at the appropriateness of the Welsh Ambulance Service’s categorisation of, and response to, amber calls.

“Amber” calls are those categorised as “serious but not immediately life threatening” and represent the majority of the almost 0.5 million emergency calls made to the Welsh Ambulance Service every year.

Patients whose conditions fall into the amber category receive an emergency blue light response.

Since the introduction of the Welsh Ambulance Service’s clinical response model in October 2015, the Emergency Ambulance Services Committee requires that we measure the care provided once the ambulance arrives and the outcomes for our patients, rather than simply the response time, as was previously the case.

The “Amber Review” looked at two main issues: whether outcomes for “amber” patients are worsening and whether those patients whose condition is categorised as requiring an “amber” response are waiting too long for a response, with a related impact on their health and experience.

The Welsh Ambulance Service has welcomed the review’s finding that “the clinical response model is a valid and safe way of delivering ambulance services” but acknowledges it has more to do in improving patient experience for some patients in the amber category, especially those whose wait for an ambulance to arrive is longer than we would like.

Welsh Ambulance Service Chief Executive, Jason Killens, said: “The review has brought into focus the need for improvement across the unscheduled care system, as well as within the ambulance service, to ensure patients receive an appropriate response to their needs as quickly as possible.

“The good news is that the review found that the clinical response model is fundamentally sound, which is something we welcome. However, we recognise that we have more to do in ensuring we have sufficient resources available to meet the needs and expectations of all our patients, some of whom are waiting longer for help than any of us would like.

“Looking ahead, work on improvement rests not just with us as an ambulance service. While we need to give serious and sustained focus to our attendance levels and our ability to meet the demands on our service, we welcome the finding that the system also needs to make improvements, particularly in terms of the delays we encounter at hospitals when trying to hand over our patients.

“There’s more to do in ensuring our staff are using the full breadth of their skills in treating patients safely in the community, and for health boards in developing a range of community services, so that we take to hospital only those patients who really need to be there.

“What’s important about the review is that it has highlighted a number of opportunities for us, and the NHS in Wales more generally, where we can do more for our patients by working together.

“We will be working with our commissioners, the Chief Ambulance Services Commissioner and the community across Wales to make sure we provide the best possible services to people who rely on us in times of need.”

A copy of the Amber Review is available here

Note to Editors

All calls to the Welsh Ambulance Service are prioritised on the basis of clinical need, with the amber category made up of two different levels of priority; “amber 1” calls, which are the more serious, including conditions like suspected strokes and suspected heart attacks, and “amber 2” calls, which can include conditions such as fractures, for example
Consistent with an audit of the clinical response model after its implementation published in 2017 by PACEC (PACEC: Public and Corporate Economic Consultants: NHS Wales Ambulance Service Emergency Ambulance Services Committee Clinical Model Pilot Evaluation Final Report, January 2017), the “Amber Review” has found that the current clinical response model operated by the Welsh Ambulance Service is a valid and safe way of delivering emergency ambulance services in Wales
For the period from April 2018 to-date,  65% of amber calls have seen an ambulance response on scene within 35 minutes

Requests for interview should be directed to WAS.Communications@wales.nhs.uk or phoned through on 01745 532511.

More information on the Welsh Ambulance Service’s clinical response model is available here and here