Ambulance delays rocket six-fold in a year as hospital queues get worse

Ambulance delays have rocketed six-fold compared to this time last year due to queuing at hospitals.

According to West Midlands Ambulance Service, 34,140 hours of ambulance time were lost last month, compared to 5,732 hours lost in April 2021. It is normally one of the quietest months of the year for road medics.

Mark Docherty, a WMAS director, has said that hospital handover delays will cost the service £28 million in 2021/22, and that another 120 ambulances are needed to bring performance back up to where it should be.

He spoke at a meeting with the Ludlow and South Shropshire Needs Ambulances campaign group, run by Councillor Darren Childs, who was left waiting 45 minutes for an ambulance when his daughter stopped breathing.

Mr Docherty said: “The problem we have now is we have 150 ambulances sat outside hospitals, so we can’t distribute them. We’ve got to understand the issues.

“On the way here I had to speak to the parents of an 18-year-old who an ambulance took 17 minutes to get to and died from a cardiac arrest. I don’t want to do that.”

The campaign group set up the meeting with Mr Docherty to plead for better ambulance availability in the south Shropshire region.

Darren Childs, campaign founder, said: “We need ambulances spread out across the whole of Shropshire, including in rural Shropshire. An ambulance coming from Shrewsbury to Ludlow or Clun or Bishop’s Castle is way too far in a medical emergency. We went through response times together and we all of us agreed that the ambulance response times in rural communities now are just completely unacceptable.”

However, WMAS says the current model of ambulance provision has been independently reviewed by the National Audit Office and the Lord Carter Report which both found it to be the most efficient way of working.

It also said that by closing four community ambulance stations in Shropshire, WMAS were able to put the equivalent of an extra ambulance on the road 12 hours a day, every day.

A West Midlands Ambulance Service spokesman said: “Long hospital handover delays mean some patients are waiting far longer for an ambulance to come to them than we would want.

“We are currently in contract negotiations with commissioners with regards to the provision of services for 2022-23.

“The whole of the NHS remains under severe pressure and we continue to work with local partners to find ways to reduce the handover delays so that our crews can respond more quickly.”

A Shrewsbury and Telford Hospitals Trust spokesman said: “We are acutely aware of the ongoing impacts the lengthy delays in ambulance handover times – caused by exceptionally high levels of demand for urgent care and the ongoing impacts of Covid-19 across the system – are having for some of our patients and would like to apologise to those affected.

“We are continuing to do everything we can to deal with the delays, including increasing capacity at our A&E department and in our wards at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital, working with partners to ensure timely discharge of medically fit patients, and diverting patients, as clinically appropriate, to our Same Day Emergency Centres and Urgent Treatment Centres.”

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