The Chief Executive of Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board, Gary Doherty, has praised staff after a 70% reduction in ambulance delays outside emergency departments, but has admitted there is still room for improvement.

During December 2018 Betsi Cadwaladr saw 5,090 ambulances attend their Emergency Departments and 446 were held for over 60 minutes outside. This compares with December 2017 which saw 4,948 ambulances at Emergency Departments and 1,271 of those were held for more than 60 minutes.

Mr Doherty said: “Our emergency departments were extremely busy during December, and we apologise to all patients who have to wait longer to be seen.

“We are pleased that there has been a significant improvement in the time our patients are waiting when they arrive at hospital by ambulance.

“There has been a significant reduction in the number of ambulance delays compared to the same time last year, and we are determined to improve further.

“An increased number of patients are being seen more quickly, which releases ambulance crews to respond to emergencies in our communities.

“We are also seeing fewer delays for patients who are ready to go home from hospital and we expect this to continue through January.

“Our staff are working tirelessly to provide the best possible care for our patients and keep our hospitals as safe as possible under these circumstances.

“Winter is a time of year we expect to see an increase in demand on our services. As part of our 90-day improvement programme we continue to work with our partner agencies to manage this demand and provide appropriate alternatives so that our emergency departments see only the most serious cases.”

A report from the Welsh Government showed the average number of daily calls to the ambulance service increased in December, with the percentage of ‘red calls’ receiving an emergency response within 8 minutes meeting the target and was slightly higher than in November.

The report also found the percentage of patients spending less than four hours in emergency departments decreased and the number of patients spending more than 12 hours in emergency departments had increased.