Desperately-ill or injured patients are facing unacceptably long waits for an ambulance to arrive in parts of Wales, it has been revealed.

New figures released through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request show that the Welsh Ambulance Service took – on average – nearly half an hour to reach “red” calls in some postcode areas in 2018-19.

Red calls are reserved for patients who are in cardiac arrest, choking, not breathing, unconscious or about to give birth.

The Welsh Government wants at least 65% of red calls to be reached within eight minutes, a target which has been met consistently in the past three years.

However, the FOI found that 90 out of 203 postcode areas in Wales had an average response time higher than eight minutes in 2018-19, with rural areas particularly affected.

Postcodes with the highest average wait for an ambulance were the rural LL45 (one callout which took 29 minutes) and LL38 (five callouts averaging 23 minutes 46 seconds) in Gwynedd .

They were followed by NP26 (22m 04s) in Caldicot, SY13 (19m 33s) on the border with Shrewsbury and LL66 (19m 20s) on Anglesey.

The Cardiff postcode with the longest response time was CF61, near Llantwit Major , Vale of Glamorgan where people had to wait 10m 57s on average.

That was followed by CF71 (9m 04s) in Cowbridge, CF34 (8m 37s) in Maesteg, Bridgend and CF43 (8m 27s) in Ferndale, Rhondda.


At the other end of the scale, the areas with the fastest response times were the CH1 postcode (three callouts averaging 1m 24s) on the border near Chester, SA31 (199 callouts averaging 3m 02s) in Carmarthen, and SA61 (148 callouts averaging 3m 37s) in Haverfordwest.

Plaid Cymru's health spokeswoman Helen Mary Jones AM said the figures were unacceptable and show that the Welsh Ambulance Service is not fit for purpose.

Lee Brooks, director of operations for the Welsh Ambulance Service, said: “The Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust is commissioned to arrive on scene in eight minutes in 65% of occasions where a 999 call is categorised as immediately life-threatening.

“In 2018-19 we arrived on scene in excess of 70% of such cases within eight minutes across Wales, with each health board area above the minimum expected standard.”

He added that the service saw a 6% increase in red incidents between 2017-18 and 2018-19 but continued to exceed the commissioned response time standard for these patients.


“Rurality, distance, demand and factors such as adverse weather do affect our ability to respond quickly in some case,” he added.

“However, we continue to work to reduce geographical variation in response times and improve the resilience of local communities.

“This includes extending our network of community first responders, local volunteers who are trained in basic life support and who can respond in their communities quickly when someone is in cardiac arrest, for example.”

He added that nearly 4,000 public access defibrillators and 1,200 community first responders were available across Wales to provide life-saving care while the ambulance is on the way to a call.

The Welsh postcodes with the slowest category red response times

Postcode // Average response time // Number of incidents


The Welsh postcodes with the fastest category red response times

Postcode // Average response time // Number of incidents

The Welsh Ambulance Service has also been criticised for not categorising patients who have suffered a stroke as red, meaning they are not subjected to the eight-minute target.

A separate Freedom of Information request by Plaid Cymru revealed that 4,038 of patients waited longer than an hour for an ambulance to arrive when they had a stroke between January 2018 and March 2019.