Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Our emergency services are stretched to breaking point

Wrexham ambulance crews are being called to deal with emergencies in Flintshire 4,300 times a year - that's 12 callouts a day.

Over the past decade, cuts to our police, fire and ambulance services have caused cutbacks in the services.

Since 2008, public spending cuts imposed by successive Labour, Tory/Lib Dem and now Tory governments in London have led to a reduction in frontline services. These were, we were told, necessary to balance the books as the UK Government looked for savings after bailing out the bankers in the wake of the 2007-8 crash.

Here's where we are today locally:

Plaid Cymru is proud to have supported firefighters in Wrexham and led to public campaign to retain 24 firefighters and one of our two whole-time fire appliances. 
 Thousands signed petitions, marched and protested against the proposal because of the undue risk it would have posed for people - especially with the added problem of arson attacks and a new prison on our doorstep.
 The campaign was won because the North Wales Fire and Rescue Authority failed to persuade the public and, crucially, their own members that this was a cut that could be justified.
 But the threat to our services hasn't gone away. The NWFRA is still looking for cuts and we must continue to argue the case both locally and centrally for proper funding for our emergency services.

Police services have been cut drastically in the past 10 years with fewer and fewer frontline police officer available to deal with problems we face in the town. In 2008 there were five police officers for an area such as Caia Park - one for each ward. Today there are just two with some back-up from PCSOs.
 This cut in frontline services is due to inadequate funding from Westminster, which still holds the purse strings on Welsh policing and criminal justice.

For years our ambulance services have been over-stretched due to problems with beds not being available in our district general hospitals and the closure of community hospitals. That's led to many ambulance crews being unavoidably detained outside Emergency Departments as hospital management tries to find spare beds for patients.
 Add to this a plan by neighbouring Flintshire to reduce night-time cover and you have a recipe for further disaster.
 Plaid Cymru’s North Wales AM Llyr Gruffydd has questioned why Flintshire’s night-time ambulance cover is being cut by 50% on Monday nights and by 25% on other nights when it already has the worst response rate to red callouts in north Wales.
The information is revealed in a Freedom of Information request by the Assembly Member after Welsh Ambulance Service Trust managers denied a plan to reduce night-time cover in the county from April. That claim was made after Mr Gruffydd first raised concerns made to him by ambulance crews.
 The FOI shows that, in addition to answering just 63% of red callouts within the target eight minutes, crews from outside the county have been called out to Flintshire 8000 times in the past year. That amounts to more than four in 10 of the total calls made to the ambulance service in Flintshire.
Analysis of figures show that crews from outside Flintshire are dealing with 22 calls a day from Flintshire – a total of 8,081 in 2016. More than half of those were crews from Wrexham – who dealt with 4,308 calls in a year – followed by Denbighshire’s crews with 2,441.
Mr Gruffydd said: 
“This new information raises new concerns. It confirms that the Trust plans to reduce cover by a half on Monday nights and a quarter for five other nights from next month. I’d like to hear from the Welsh Ambulance Service Trust why they consider cover to be sufficient in Flintshire when they are so over-stretched that crews from surrounding areas and as far afield as Anglesey are having to come to the county to deal with 42% of all calls.“This clearly shows that there is a capacity problem in Flintshire itself as it is drawing on services in neighbouring counties and this, in turn, has a knock-on effect with crews in Denbighshire and Wrexham bearing the brunt. With that in mind, I’m hoping WAST can provide a simple explanation as to why night-time services are being cut in Flintshire rather than playing with words as they did last time.”
The impact of this on ambulance services in Wrexham is becoming acute. If ambulance crews are attending an average of 12 calls a day in Flintshire, that's 12 calls they can't respond to in good time in Wrexham.

Financial pressures on all our emergency services are driving a cuts agenda that is leading to a poorer service and all three working at - or beyond - capacity. It's unsustainable and the Tories have no intention of stopping their crusade to destroy our public services with their salami slicing of public funds.

Wales deserves better - we need to control our own budgets and invest in our most important public services.

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