Patient waits in ambulance for over 8 hours

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Ambulances left queuing outside A&E for hours

New research shows that around 300,000 ambulances were left queuing outside hospitals last year, with patients waiting to be seen in A&E. One patient waited for over eight hours.

The figures, collected by Labour, show that despite the 15 minute nationally agreed standard, patients were kept waiting for at least 30 minutes as emergency departments were too busy to safely take on new patients. The investigation found 279,207 ambulances were delayed for more than half an hour, and a further 30,601 reported waits lasting over an hour.

The longest single wait was recorded in the West Midlands at eight hours and 11 minutes, with the south west reporting a wait of seven hours 32 minutes. The longest delay in London was six hours and 10 minutes. Though national guidelines say the handover process should take no longer than 15 minutes, in every ambulance trust in the country some patients waited more than an hour. The Department of Health labelled long waits as “unacceptable” as it can hold up essential hospital care and prevents ambulances from being available for other urgent calls.

It has been agreed that part of the problem has been increasing demands on A&E departments.  There were more than 14.2 million attendances last year in accident and emergency units – up 1.4% in two years.

Hanging around

Jamie Reed, the Labour shadow health minister, told BBC News “Thousands of vulnerable people, many of them elderly and frightened, are being wrongly held in the backs of ambulances because hospitals don’t have the space.”

Dr Cliff Mann, of the College of Emergency Medicine, said “It is our view that emergency departments should have sufficient capacity to meet demand, and that means ambulances should be able to transfer patients into departments immediately on arrival. It has been clear that this has been difficult to achieve at times. This problem is symptomatic of the pressures emergency departments are facing.”

The Department of Health have already tried to amend the situation with additional funding, a spokesperson commenting “We are providing extra support, including £28m for ambulances from funds already given to the NHS this year, to keep services sustainable year-round.”

[table head_color=”#ffffff” head_background=”#D74142″]

Ambulance service No. of waits over 30 mins No. of waits over 60 mins Longest wait
North East 4,524 1,317 3 hrs 52 mins
South West 14,253 3,271 7 hrs 32 mins
East Midlands 62,689 6,283 3 hrs 59 mins
South Central 8,804 2,374 4 hrs 47 mins
East of England 29,796 3,739 Not Available
London 55,030 2,885 6 hrs 10 mins
North West 21,537 3,553 4 hrs 45 mins
West Midlands 46,807 2,349 8 hrs 11 mins
South East Coast 25,298 3,074 4 hrs 15 mins
Yorkshire 10,469 1,456 3 hrs 31 mins
TOTAL: 279,207 30,601