Worst NHS ambulance delays laid bare as critical patients forced to wait 10 hours and others more than two days for care

EMERGENCY patients were forced to wait more than 10 hours for ambulances in the worst delays last year, NHS figures reveal.

The longest waits for Category 2 calls, including heart attacks and strokes, passed 10 hours in all areas of England in 2023.

AlamyPatients were forced to wait more than 10 hours for ambulances in the worst delays, new NHS figures show[/caption]

The worst was a shocking 16 hours and 49 minutes in East Anglia.

In previous years patients have died after enduring similar delays.

NHS standards stipulate a crew should arrive within 18 minutes for Category 2 calls.

Nearly all of the ambulance trusts also left Category 1 life-or-death patients waiting more than an hour – way above the seven-minute target.

Wes Streeting, Labour’s shadow health secretary, said: “It is terrifying to think that, if you suffered a stroke or heart attack, an ambulance may not reach you in time, if at all.”

A Freedom of Information investigation found less urgent Category 3 and 4 callers languished for longer than two days in some areas.

Seven out of England’s 10 regional ambulance services provided data.

The worst delayed Category 3 call, in the West Midlands, took a staggering 57 hours 39 minutes and 25 seconds.

Category 3 is classed as urgent but not an emergency, and could include injuries, burns or diabetes complications.

BUSY HOSPITALS TO BLAME

Ambulance services in England have not hit targets for Category 2 – the most common calls – in normal times since current records began in 2017, only doing so during the first Covid lockdown.

Busy hospitals mean patient handovers take longer than they should while staff try to find a bed, preventing crews getting back on the road.

It comes as NHS bosses say they will be “picking up the pieces” for weeks after the latest junior doctors’ strike ended on Tuesday.

Tens of thousands more appointments and operations are expected to have been cancelled during the five-day protest.

Matthew Taylor, of NHS Confederation, said: “It is questionable that these strikes in the midst of a General Election campaign could have moved the dial.

“It is patients who are bearing the brunt of this dispute.”

Anna Parry, of the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives, said: “NHS urgent and emergency care is under sustained pressure.

“High demand across the 999 system and the extreme challenges caused by handover delays at emergency departments are two of the main reasons why ambulance services do not always meet their response time target.

“Our data suggests that response times will remain significantly affected until delays in the handover of care across health and social care are eradicated.”

A spokesperson for East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust, which was responsible for the 16-hour delay, said: “We are very sorry for the delay in responding to this call in 2023.

“We investigated and found that the delay was due to a technical error within our computer aided dispatch system.

“The patient was seen by a crew and later discharged at the scene after joint decision making with the Urgent Community Response Team.”

A West Midlands Ambulance Service spokesman said: “We would like to apologise to the patient that it took so long to respond to them.

“There is a direct correlation between response times and hospital handover delays.  

“Sadly, the delays mean that some patients wait much longer than we would want as a result.”

When to call 999 for adults and children

You should call 999 in life-threatening emergencies.

For adults, this includes:

Signs of a heart attack (chest pain, pressure, heaviness, tightness, squeezing)
Signs of a stroke (face dropping on one side, unable to hold both arms up, difficulty speaking)
Sudden confusion (doesn’t know own name)
Suicide attempt
Severe difficulty breathing (unable to speak, choking, gasping)
Choking
Heavy bleeding (spraying, pouring, making a puddle)
Severe injuries (after a serious accident or assault)
Seizure
Sudden and rapid swelling (lips, mouth, throat, tongue)

For children, this includes:

Seizure
Choking
Difficulty breathing (grunting noises, stomach sucking under rib cage)
Unable to stay awake (can’t keep eyes open for more than a few seconds)
Blue, grey, pale or blotchy skin, tongue or lips
Limp and floppy (head falls to the side, backwards or forwards)
Heavy bleeding (spraying, pouring, making a puddle)
Severe injuries (after a serious accident or assault)
Signs of a stroke (face dropping on one side, unable to hold both arms up, difficulty speaking)
Sudden and rapid swelling (lips, mouth, throat, tongue)
Sudden confusion (agitation, odd behaviour, non-stop crying)

Source: NHS

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Follow by Email
LinkedIn
LinkedIn
Share