Doctor warns ambulances are struggling to cut down on waiting times

‘This is a major crisis’: Casualty doctor warns that ambulance services across the country are struggling to cut down on waiting times with around 34,000 patients a month harmed by delays

  • Experts said around 4,000 patients came to serious harm from the delays
  • Daphne Syms, 90, waited 40 hours for an ambulance in Cornwall this week
  • Average response times are the joint longest since records began in 2017
  • One doctor said issues were down to difficulties offloading patients at hospital 

A leading casualty doctor warned yesterday of a ‘major crisis’ in ambulance services across the nation.

In a week where a 90-year-old woman had to wait 40 hours for an ambulance, more horror stories are continuing to surface.

Experts say around 34,000 patients a month come to some form of harm as a result of ambulance delays and about 4,000 come to severe harm.

Response times have continued to worsen, with the average time in July for ambulances dealing with life-threatening illnesses or injuries, increasing to nine minutes and 35 seconds. 

This is the joint longest average response time since records began in 2017, according to NHS figures.

A leading casualty doctor warned yesterday of a ‘major crisis’ in ambulance services across the nation. Jackie Hulbert (pictured), 78, was left lying on her bedroom floor for 11 hours waiting for an ambulance after a fall at her home in Barwell, Leicestershire, last month. She died two days later in hospital from sepsis

And ambulance response times to emergency calls such as burns, epilepsy and strokes increased from an average of 51 minutes and 38 seconds in June to 59 minutes and seven seconds last month – more than triple the target of 18 minutes.

Dr Katherine Henderson, president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said one of the main issues was difficulties in ambulances offloading patients when at hospital.

‘It is a national problem,’ she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. ‘It is happening because we can’t get patients out of hospital back into the community because there aren’t the community beds.

‘This is a major crisis. The reasonable expectation of a healthcare system is that if you call an ambulance, an ambulance turns up quickly and you get the care you need… we have broken that fundamental promise with the public of being able to do that.’

Lynne Jones (pictured left with her husband Bryn, right), 62, from Llynclys near Oswestry in Shropshire, lay on a concrete path for more than ten hours with a broken leg waiting for an ambulance on August 12

Yesterday the Daily Mail reported how Daphne Syms, 90, waited 40 hours for an ambulance after breaking her hip in a fall at her home in St Austell, Cornwall – then spent the night waiting outside the hospital to be admitted.

Now it has emerged that Lynne Jones, 62, from Llynclys near Oswestry in Shropshire, lay on a concrete path for more than ten hours with a broken leg waiting for an ambulance on August 12.

West Midlands Ambulance Service apologised and said pressures it was seeing in health and social care were leading to ‘long hospital handover delays’.

Jackie Hulbert, 78, was left lying on her bedroom floor for 11 hours waiting for an ambulance after a fall at her home in Barwell, Leicestershire, last month. She died two days later in hospital from sepsis. 

Experts say around 34,000 patients a month come to some form of harm as a result of ambulance delays and about 4,000 come to severe harm. Picture: NHS ambulances outside a hospital in London on August 19

Her son Mathew said: ‘My mum’s case is not unique. This should be considered a national emergency. It’s not right. It’s not good enough.’

East Midlands Ambulance Service said it was ‘deeply sorry’ it was unable to get to her sooner.

A Department of Health spokesman said was taking action to support ambulance services.

‘This includes the NHS investing £150million to help ambulance services meet pressures and £20million this year to upgrade the ambulance fleet,’ he said. 

‘We have also grown the ambulance and support staff workforce by almost 40 per cent since 2010.’

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