Welsh Ambulance Service: Contact center staff upset with wait times

Welsh Ambulance Service clinical contact center (CCC) STAFF have spoken of their ‘horrible’ experiences of having to tell people they could wait hours for an ambulance in an emergency.

The Welsh Ambulance Service (WAS) has previously said it is under ‘significant pressure’.

It’s a common theme across the UK – a survey of over 1,000 adults found around six in 10 people (61%) were unconvinced an ambulance would arrive quickly if they had one need.

The poll, carried out by Ipsos for the PA news agency, also found that nearly two-thirds (64%) of people did not trust 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 28 July, members viewed a video which detailed the experiences of CCC staff of having to cope with what can often be painful calls.

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This was accompanied by learning more about the WAS Trust’s new engagement framework, receiving an update on its integrated medium-term plan, and learning more about the steps the organization is taking to mitigate harm suffered by patients.

In a video shown to the board – titled “Impact of Current Pressures on CCC Staff” – two staff members revealed their thoughts on the current situation.

It has been described as a “little snapshot that brings to life the reality” of the pressures staff currently face.

The first member of staff speaking in the video said: “Even from what it was during the pandemic, up to 2020 it got worse and so it was more difficult for all of us.

“When you start your shift and you can see how long the calls have been waiting there and people call back and say how long they’ve been waiting and you have to tell them they’re unfortunately going to be waiting even longer long, you just grit your teeth when told how long they will have to wait. It’s really not a pleasant experience.

Pictured: Ambulance wait times are a big problem for WAS and indeed the whole of the UK at the moment.

The second, who joined the CCC during the pandemic, said: “It’s horrible. It’s awful. He comes in to try to help people and then tells them that help is not available for several hours or that there is no help, it is the complete opposite of what I came to do.

“I dread it with every call, I’m starting to feel upset it’s come to this.

“Listening to sad, awful, awful stuff, being there at that time trying to keep it calm, I hate telling people it’s gonna be six o’clock, that’s not what I signed up for, I wanted to join the service to help people.”

In response to these experiences, the board said: “It’s emotional and extremely stressful. Over the last two to four years we’ve increased support for staff and I think that’s particularly important.

“We may not be able to change the system that easily, but we can support the staff and I think we have.”

During the board meeting, a “strong and powerful” graph was also presented to the board, with a blue line meant to show the “declining” position of performance over time.

It was added that there was a ‘direct correlation between this and the pressure emerging in the rest of the system’ which in turn impacts ‘our ability to respond to patients in the community’.

National Wales:

Pictured: Call center staff spoke about their experiences handling calls regarding ambulance wait times.

A board member said: “I just want to apologize again to the patients in the community who have waited longer than they would like over the past few months and for the poor quality services that they have known.”

It was also revealed during the meeting that a bid the WAS Trust had placed in the value-based healthcare fund for 50 additional advanced paramedical practitioners had “regretfully been rejected”.

However, the Welsh Government has announced it will invest an additional £3m to help improve ambulance response times in Wales.

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

This additional funding will allow 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 at the board meeting that new arrangements have been agreed to for immediate release instructions allowing for more vehicles to be immediately released from the emergency service for a call into the community when this is absolutely necessary.