Ambulance Patients Face Lengthy Delays, Figures Show

Statistics Show Some Patients Have To Wait Hours Before Being Admitted To Hospital

09.12.2013

Some patients being transported to hospital via ambulances are having to wait hours before they are admitted, new figures have shown.

Obtained by the BBC through a Freedom of Information request, the statistics suggest that people are left in the back of emergency vehicles for far longer than the recommended 15 minutes.

Ambulance drivers cannot move a person on to a ward until staff are ready to take charge of them and this can be a lengthy process.

The broadcaster asked all UK ambulance services for their waiting times between August and October 2013 and in one case, a patient was forced to stay in the vehicle for more than six hours.

Scotland had the best record, while Welsh hospitals had the worst, with each weekly maximum wait exceeding three hours.

Although NHS England has insisted that waiting times are improving, president of the College of Emergency Medicine Dr Clifford Mann said the statistics are "alarming".

"There's always going to be a small number of patients whose transfer is delayed, but not to the extent of these figures - which are approaching three, four - sometimes six hours," he told the BBC.

Mr Mann reiterated the fact this report only accounts for the months between August and October, which is usually a quieter period for accident and emergency (A&E) units, so the situation could worsen.

"They don't include the really pressured time of the winter and so it's unlikely these figures are going to improve - and that must be a cause for concern," he added.

Barbara Hakin of NHS England was quoted as saying that it is "essential" for ambulances to be back on the road as soon as possible after taking patients to hospital.

A recent report by the National Audit Office showed that 5.3 million people were taken to an A&E unit in 2012-13, placing great strain on NHS resources. Ms Hakin stated that although hospitals are under pressure, the number of patients who have to wait more than 30 minutes before they are admitted has fallen when compared with last year.

Expert Opinion
The figures which have been released are very concerning and it is completely unacceptable to see cases in which patients who have been transported to a hospital by ambulance have been made to wait in the vehicle for nearly six hours.

“An urgent review is required and the worst-performing regions in the UK must consider an action plan to ensure that improvements are made. Ambulances provide a life-saving function in the NHS and it is important that all Trusts across the UK provide an effective service.”
Lisa Jordan, Partner