AMBULANCE DELAYS are putting lives at risk warns MP

  • Ambulances taking up to two minutes longer to answer the most serious callouts
  • Experts warn delays can put lives at risk
  • Ambulances delayed in long queues outside chaos-hit A&E departments

imageOfficial data on the performance of England’s ambulance services reveal patients waiting longer than just two years ago.

Patients in a life-threatening state in the East of England are now waiting 6 minutes 42 seconds on average – up by almost two minutes, from 4 minutes 45 seconds two years earlier.

Ambulances in all but one part of England are taking longer to reach the most serious ‘Category A’ callouts, including 54 seconds longer in London and 50 seconds longer in the West Midlands. Across England, the average wait has increased by 45 seconds from 5 minutes 20 seconds to 6 minutes 5 seconds. See below table.

The impact of delays on patients

For callers receiving a Category A response from an ambulance service, speed is important:

  • The chances of surviving cardiac arrest decrease by 10% with each minute that passes.
“Stroke is a time dependant medical emergency: the quicker patients get to a place capable of providing the appropriate care the more likely it is that the patient will survive and go home being less disabled and more likely to return to their day to day activity. Typically, 1.9 million neurons are lost for each minute a stroke goes untreated. Every stage of the journey until treatment is received is therefore time critical.” (National Stroke Strategy).

Why are ambulances delayed?

More than a quarter of a million ambulances are now caught in queues outside A&E departments every year – severely impacting on their ability to answer the next emergency callouts.

Between September 2012 and September 2013, 255,640 patients/ambulances were trapped outside full A&E departments for longer than 30 minutes. This has increased from 215,117 the year beforeand has more than doubled from 99,000 in 2010/11.

Andrew Gwynne MP, Labour’s Shadow Health Minister, said:

“These figures reveal lives being put at risk because of the growing chaos in England’s A&Es.

“Outside bursting A&E departments, thousands of patients are waiting in the backs of ambulances. The paramedics can’t discharge patients and so can’t answer their next call. People dialling 999 – evenfor patients in a life-threatening condition – face agonising waits when every second counts.

“David Cameron’s fingerprints are all over the crisis in A&E. Hospitals are facing the most dangerous winter for a decade. He must act now to make sure struggling ambulance services can cope.”

Ends

Data on delays

Time to treatment for Category A calls (in seconds)

Ambulance service

Median Nov 2011

Median Nov 2013

Increase (secs)

Increase %

East Midlands

356.00

405.00

49.0

13.8%

East of England

285.00

402.00

117.0

41.1%

London

330.00

384.00

54.0

16.4%

North East

311.00

351.60

40.6

13.1%

North West

292.20

334.20

42.0

14.4%

South Central

364.80

362.00

-2.8

-0.8%

South East Coast

310.20

339.00

28.8

9.3%

South Western

306.00

342.00

36.0

11.8%

West Midlands

330.60

381.00

50.4

15.2%

Yorkshire

309.00

340.20

31.2

10.1%

England

319.50

364.10

44.6

14.0%

(Source: NHS England http://www.england.nhs.uk/statistics/statistical-work-areas/ambulance-quality-indicators )

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