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Ambulance Delays Hit Record Level

View profile for Saira Walji
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Concerns for patient safety grow as NHS England data shows that the average ambulance response times for category 1 - 3 emergencies in October 2022 were the highest since categories were introduced in 2017. 

Some patients who require emergency treatment have had to wait several hours for an ambulance to arrive. In some cases, patients have been encouraged to travel to hospital by taxi or a private vehicle instead.

Dr Selvarajah, a GP in east London said: “If somebody is not having a heart attack or a stroke, my default advice is ‘have you got someone who can drive you or do you want to get an Uber?’”

NHS health bosses say the major delays in ambulance services are being caused by handover delays at A&E departments, with ambulances queueing for hours before patients are seen and handed over.

Ambulance crews are meant to be able to hand over their patients to hospital staff within 15 minutes of arrival. However, due to most hospitals being full to capacity and many being short staffed, these timescales are not being adhered to. Such delays compromise safety in our community by reducing the availability of ambulances to respond to emergencies.

The number of people in the West Midlands who have died due to ambulance delays has risen significantly. Figures uncovered by BBC Newsnight showed yearly numbers rose from 1 in 2020 to 37 by September 2022.

The longest an ambulance had to wait to hand over a patient was 21 hours, at Worcester Royal Hospital but many other hospitals have experienced lengthy delays including; Princess Royal Hospital 19 hours, Alexandra Hospital 8 hours, Royal Stoke Hospital 15 hours and Royal Shrewsbury Hospital 20 hours.

Martin Flaherty, managing director of the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives said: "These crippling delays are a twin threat - they cause significant harm to patients who are forced to wait in the back of our ambulances, while our crews are stuck and therefore unable to respond to patients who need us out in the community”.

According to the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives, around 44,000 patients may have come to harm because of delays in October 2022.

Dr Neena Jha, a locum GP in Hertfordshire said “If someone needs an urgent transfer to accident and emergency, we don’t rely on the ambulance service. We call taxis or get relatives to drive them in if they are going to be stable on the journey. I’ve had patients who have falling oxygen levels, who are quite unwell, and I have been quoted an 18-hour wait for an ambulance.”

At Bell Lax, we have acted for many clients who have experienced injury and loss arising from delays in the NHS.

If you or a loved one have concerns regarding the treatment you have received or issues caused by ambulance delays, contact our medical negligence team for helpful advice on 0121 355 0011.