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Posted June 26, 2006 EST

Home >  Article
999 Crisis
A seriously injured driver had to be taken to hospital in the back of a police van because there were not enough ambulances in Cardiff. The terrifying shortage highlights the growing crisis in Wales' ambulance service.

The taxi driver was taken to hospital with internal bleeding after being cut free on Saturday night. A firefighter at the scene and other taxi drivers called for action before lives are lost.

The Welsh Ambulance Service NHS Trust says it is aware there is a problem. 'Why weren't there any ambulances in city on a busy night?': An injured taxi driver had to be taken to hospital in the back of a police transit van because there were no ambulances in the whole of Cardiff to take him.

The driver had to be cut free by firefighters after hitting a lamp-post outside the Macdonald Holland House Hotel on Newport Road in Cardiff city centre, around midnight on Saturday.

But one shocked firefighter says the man, with suspected internal bleeding and a punctured lung, had to be put in the back of a police transit van because there was not a single ambulance in Cardiff to take him to hospital.

And he claims two firefighters from Roath had to go in the police van with the taxi driver and a paramedic, leaving their fire engine unable to attend other calls.

The incident comes after ambulance bosses denied staff claims that there were not enough staff on duty to cover areas in mid and South Wales.

The crisis-hit service has already hit the headlines for failing to meet target times for 999 calls and its former chief executive Roger Thayne has blasted service 'failures', claiming 500 lives a year are at risk without a pounds 35m investment.

'I'm worried someone will die if this lack of cover continues,' said the firefighter, who asked not to be named. There was a passenger in the back who was cut out and taken to hospital by ambulance.

But there wasn't a free ambulance in the whole of Cardiff for the driver.

'That's ridiculous for a capital city on a busy Saturday night.

He had assumed internal bleeding, a dislocated shoulder, a broken leg and a puncture to his lung - time was critical.

'It took an hour to cut him out then he was put in the back of the police van.

'It's not the ambulance staff's fault. They do a great job. There was a paramedic with the taxi driver at the scene doing a good job but he shouldn't have been on his own. We never had this problem until managers stopped staff doing overtime. It's leaving a shortage of staff to man the ambulances.'

Cardiff Hackney Drivers' Association vice chairman Mohmmed Afzal Nabi, said: 'The driver is still in hospital and was having an operation yesterday. There were about 20 drivers on the scene trying to see if he was OK and they were very unhappy there was no ambulance. I'm just shocked. Weren't there any other ambulances in Cardiff?'

Hackney driver Ahmed Hashi, of Grangetown, said: 'I saw him being cut out. It's disgusting they couldn't get an ambulance. It's unbelievable.'

Passer-by Ben Wright, 24, said: 'There were about 50 people in the street, trying to see what was happening. The taxi driver was in a neck brace when he was lifted out of the car and put into the police van.'

Police inspector Helen Summerfield said: 'At 1.30am we transported the driver to the University Hospital of Wales.

'His injuries were not believed to be life threatening. Inquiries are continuing.'

Paramedics have threatened to strike unless they are paid pounds 13m owed to them in a back- pay scandal.

New figures also suggest 700 Welsh paramedics are still waiting for a minimum pounds 7,000 each in back pay, while 2,500 frontline workers are still waiting for wage rises promised 21 months ago.

A public inquiry into the service will be held after Assembly health minister Brian Gibbons mistakenly sided with the opposition by pressing the wrong button in the Assembly and voted for it. 'THIS IS NOT A NEW PROBLEM': A welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust spokeswoman said: 'We get exceptional circumstances and our staff make difficult decisions.

'This isn't about overtime.

'There were no over- time requests refused on Saturday night. Our ambulance services in Cardiff were in-line with a typical Saturday night. It was a busy period and we were at full stretch. This is not a new problem. There are difficulties in Cardiff with matching emergency cover to the demands in the early hours of the morning. We know the service is facing major changes and needs to undergo fundamental restructuring.

'We cannot change the way we operate over night.

'We have to undergo a consultation period for any changes to working conditions.

'We're hoping to introduce a deployment plan which is vital to alleviate the problem and we're undergoing negotiations with the unions.

'This plan is designed to provide cover in response to the demand by looking at many things including how vehicles are moved.'

Written by South Wales Echo

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