Ambulances 'Queuing For Hours' At A&Es

Patient Safety Concerns As Long Ambulance Waits Revealed

11.08.2014

Due to the emergency nature of ambulances, guidelines state they are not meant to wait for any more than 15 minutes outside the accident and emergency (A&E) departments of hospitals, but new statistics show many patients with potentially life-threatening conditions have been left waiting in such vehicles for significantly longer.

Research from the Labour Party has revealed around 300,000 ambulances were forced to queue outside hospitals before patients could be seen by doctors during 2013, leading to serious concerns regarding health and safety and the wellbeing of those requiring the service.

The longest wait recorded totalled eight hours and 11 minutes at a hospital in the West Midlands, with a delay of seven hours and 32 minutes being reported in the south-west.

In Yorkshire, the north-east and the East Midlands, the longest waits were significantly shorter  - at three hours and 31 minutes, three hours and 52 minutes and three hours and 59 minutes respectively - but these are still not acceptable if a patient is in serious pain or suffering from an ailment that could prove fatal.

It was found that each ambulance trust in the UK saw a wait of at least one hour at some point throughout the year.

Speaking to the BBC, a spokesperson from the Department of Health commented: "Long handovers are completely unacceptable. We are providing extra support, including £28 million for ambulances from funds already given to the NHS this year to keep services sustainable year-round."

Dr Cliff Mann from the College of Emergency Medicine also spoke to the news provider, adding: "This problem is symptomatic of the pressures emergency departments are facing."

However, while delays are usually particularly prevalent throughout the winter months, NHS England said these fell by 30 per cent between 2012-13 and 2013-14.

Overall, the number of A&E visits increased during 2013, rising by 1.4 per cent from the previous year, meaning around 14.2 million patients attended their local department.

Expert Opinion
Providing patients visiting A&E departments with the care they need immediately can make the difference between life and death in some cases, which makes the findings of this report extremely troubling. Patient care must always be a top priority and it is vital those arriving at hospitals via ambulance are given treatment quickly and not forced to wait in queues outside.

“It is encouraging to see the government has dedicated further funding to the ambulance service and it is vital the NHS takes action to ensure patients arriving at hospitals are treated quickly by doctors, rather than waiting in ambulances for more than three hours in some cases. We have seen all too often the damage that can be caused to patients when they are not treated quickly after being rushed to hospital and it is crucial reassurances are given by the NHS that measures are being implemented to reduce waiting times for those arriving at A&E departments in ambulances.”
Mandy Luckman, Partner