Doctors warn accident and emergency departments are on the precipice, with patients being forced to wait in ambulances until 11 a.m. outside hospitals.
Paramedics across Britain have reported queues of up to 20 ambulances waiting outside hospitals to transfer patients to emergency departments operating at full capacity. Every ambulance service in the country is now on the highest alert level, the Association of Ambulance Directors (AACE) said over the weekend.
Martin Flaherty, CEO of the organization, said: â[The association] remains extremely concerned at the unprecedented levels of hospital transfer delays occurring across the UK. “
A patient died last Monday after suffering a suspected heart attack in the back of an ambulance that had been queuing for more than two hours outside James Paget University Hospital in Gorleston-on-Sea in Norfolk. A hospital spokesperson said the patient had been transferred to A&E but “sadly died on the ward.”
The Royal Worcestershire Hospital, Royal Shrewsbury Hospital, Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and Darlington Memorial Hospital have seen some of the longest transfer delays. National guidelines state that patients must be transferred from an ambulance to an emergency department within 15 minutes.
The West Midlands Ambulance Service (WMAS) said its longest transfer time in August and September to Worcestershire Royal was 11 hours and 46 minutes. He said three teams waited more than 11 hours in August to transfer their patients who remained in the backs of vehicles.
Mark Wibberley, senior emergency medical technician for the Eastern England Ambulance Service and Head of Unison Norfolk County, said: âWaits can be up to six hours to hand over patients. It’s not acceptable. Darlington Memorial Hospital reportedly had queues of up to 15 ambulances this month with crews waiting hours to transfer patients.
Dr Ian Higginson, Vice President of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said: ‘The last thing you want when you’re sick, scared or in distress is to wait in an ambulance outside a ward. ’emergency. There has been a failure in the NHS to deal with this chronic problem. I fear these delays will get worse without effective planning on how to handle them. We feel like we’re on the brink of the quality of care we can provide to our patients. “
NHS figures released last week revealed 2.1 million people attended A&E last month, the highest figure on record in September. There were 946,707 calls for an ambulance answered to 999 last month, up from 713,975 in September 2020, an increase of over 30%.
The figures communicated to Observer AACE reveal that hours lost to ambulance services due to hospital surrender delays of over an hour have increased from 4,700 hours in April 2021 to over 35,000 hours last month. Delays in handing over may worsen ambulance response times, which are now the longest in England since data was first collected in April 2018.
Professor Kailash Chand, a former vice-president of the British Medical Association, died in July after suffering cardiac arrest at his home in Manchester. It took more than 30 minutes for the Northwest Ambulance Service to arrive, compared to an average target response time of seven minutes. Chand’s son Dr Aseem Malhotra, cardiologist and chairman of the Public Health Collaboration charity, said his father would almost certainly have survived if the ambulance had not been delayed. He later found out that the service was on high alert due to high demand.
He said: âThese delays are absolutely shocking and there has been a complete failure to inform the public that the ambulance services are on the highest level of alert as they are struggling to keep up with the number of 999 calls. The system is broken.
Chief and TV presenter Mary Berry, 86, told how she had to wait three and a half hours for an ambulance after breaking her hip in August. She said she had been “perfectly happy” to wait and was treated at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading.
Richard Webber, a paramedic and spokesperson for the College of Paramedics, said many hospitals were at full capacity, with delays in discharging patients, and “it’s backing up and not allowing ambulances to unload.”
Hospitals say their staff are working under extreme pressure with record demands, but are working with NHS partners to reduce the transfer time. Matthew Hopkins, Managing Director of Acute Care Hospitals at the Worcestershire NHS Trust, said: ‘We are extremely grateful to our fellow WMASs and local health partners who are working harder than ever to reduce wait times and alleviate stress. problems caused by ambulances delayed outside our hospitals. The spokesperson for the North West Ambulance Service said, “We offer our sincere condolences to Dr Malhotra and his family and can confirm that we have received a formal complaint from him. We are investigating the incident. and we will liaise with the family to further discuss the matter. â
An NHS spokesperson said: ‘Ambulances responded to a record 76,000 life-threatening calls in September, an increase of over 20,000 from the previous high this month, while 999 received nearly a million calls last month. Help us reduce delays by only calling 999 for life-threatening emergencies and contacting NHS 111 online or by phone for all other medical assistance and advice.