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Ambulance Waiting times

View profile for Elizabeth Tolmie
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In recent weeks, there has been reports and warnings of lengthy wait times for ambulances across England. Additionally, nearly one in four patients arriving at hospitals by ambulance in the first week of 2022 waited at least 30 minutes to be handed over to A&E Departments.

Ambulance services are measured on the time it takes from receiving a 999 call to the vehicle arriving at the patient’s location. The NHS England Ambulance Standard sets out that current ambulance response goals are:

  • 8 minutes for Category 1 (life threatening) incidents
  • 18 minutes for Category 2 (emergency) incidents such as strokes
  • 120 minutes, or 2 hours for Category 3 (urgent) incidents such as burns
  • 180 minutes, or 3 hours for Category 4 (less urgent) incidents such as flu

However, the Covid-19 pandemic has put significant pressure on NHS services over recent months. The emergency services are seeing a vast increase in the number of 999 calls and the rising demand for ambulances which has subsequently increased response times.

In October 2021, 1.3 million 999 calls were made in England. This is a significant increase in comparison to the 273,025 calls that were made in 2020.

Now, the current average response times in England for each type of incident are:

  • Category 1 (life threatening) incidents: 9 minutes 1 seconds
  • Category 2 (emergency) incidents: 21 minutes, 30 seconds
  • Category 3 (urgent) incidents: 2 hours, 35 minutes and 45 seconds
  • Category 4 (less urgent) incidents: 3 hours, 7 minutes and 45 seconds

Worryingly, response goals are not presently being met in any category.

In recent news, there have been incidents whereby a patient has died due to waiting more than 5 hours in the back of an ambulance. In a separate case, a patient had been waiting over an hour for an ambulance to arrive following a life threatening 999 call. Unfortunately, the patient died.

There are other instances where individuals have suffered harm due to slow response times by ambulance services to emergencies, and ambulance service staff erroneously determining that a patient does not need to be taken to hospital.

If you or a loved one have concerns regarding a delay in receiving treatment, contact our team of experienced medical negligence solicitors on 0121 355 0011 to discuss your potential claim.