UNCONFIRMED plans to reduce the number of ambulances serving Pembrokeshire from seven down to five will have a 'catastrophic impact' on the local population and ambulance staff, a frontline source has said.

The frontline staff member, who contacted the Western Telegraph anonymously, said that a pan Wales roster review, currently being undertaken by the Welsh Ambulance Service, would see emergency ambulance capacity within Pembrokeshire reduced from seven down to five.

They added that Hywel Dda health board was the only health board in Wales that would see a reduction in emergency ambulance cover.

When contacted by the Western Telegraph, chief executive of the Welsh Ambulance Service, Jason Killens, said that nothing is yet set in stone and that the review is ongoing, with local cover possibly increasing as a result.

However, our source says that the proposals to decrease ambulance cover were outlined at a recent meeting involving frontline staff.

"This is something that I feel strongly will catastrophically impact both the local population and the health of the frontline ambulance staff," said the source adding that the current Pembrokeshire service, with a maximum of seven emergency ambulances running from five ambulance stations, was already seriously stretched.

"Currently myself and my colleagues find ourselves attending calls that have been waiting for an ambulance response for a number of hours," they said.

"While the majority of callers are understanding that this is out of our control, there are some that are then aggressive towards us upon our arrival due to their understandable frustration and fear surrounding their loved ones' health.

"This makes our job very difficult as we feel embarrassed at the service provided and frightened that one day we may end up physically harmed due to someone's frustration.

"The impact these changes will have on ambulance staff who are already struggling both mentally and physically is something that genuinely frightens me."

They added that the NHS as a whole is struggling to meet demand with ambulances queueing outside hospitals for indeterminate amounts of time. This is resulting in lengthy delays to other 999 ambulance calls waiting for a response with 'potential disastrous results to patient outcome'.

"Regularly Pembrokeshire ambulance crews are pulled out of our own county to answer calls further afield, sometimes an hour or more away, leaving Pembrokeshire with greatly reduced responding capacity," they said.

They added that crews needing to refer patients through specialist pathways, for example heart cases to the PPCI centre in Morriston Hospital and some trauma cases to Glangwili, Morriston or even Cardiff, also resulted in longer travel times and less availability within Pembrokeshire.

Chief Executive of the Welsh Ambulance Service, Jason Killens said:

"We are at the start of a complex national roster review which of course must be undertaken with our staff locally as well as with trade union partners.

"We are aware of concerns that exist in the Hywel Da University Health Board area and are committed to keeping our communities and their representatives up to date and informed of progress.

"Since the initial 2019 review, demand on the unscheduled care system has increased dramatically and in conjunction with our commissioners, the Welsh Ambulance Service has agreed to re-open the review and update it to better reflect the current picture.

"With this review being a work-in-progress, it is still too early to comment on the precise level of emergency cover that will emerge, but we do expect the overall level of cover locally to increase.

"263 new full-time emergency medical service positions have already been funded for the whole of Wales and we aim to complete recruitment by March 2022.

"As the picture becomes clearer, we will undertake a programme of communication around the findings of the review and its outcomes for communities across Wales."