New data has shown an 87% increase in patients waiting more than 30 minutes to be admitted to A&E.
According to new figures which have been published, hundreds of thousands of sick patients are being forced to wait in ambulances outside A&E units. Some of the patients have been left waiting for up to eight hours.
The data obtained by the Labour Party indicate that patients across the country are being cared for in ambulances waiting outside the A&E units for hours due to delays in handover.
The new statistics which have been obtained via Freedom of Information requests indicate that 280000 patients suffered ‘handover delays’ of a minimum of half an hour during 2013/14. This figure includes 30000 patients who were forced to wait for periods of one hour or more.
Three areas were highlighted as being the worst affected. In West Midlands patients have had to wait up to eight hours and 11 minutes to be handed over to the emergency unit.
In other parts of the country, figures indicated that people were left stranded in ambulances for seven and half hours, whilst the waits in London were in excess of six hours.
The Labour shadow health minister, Jamie Reed, said that these figures indicate that under David Cameron, hospitals have become so full they are bursting, which is the reason for ambulances queuing at their doors for hours. He said thousands of vulnerable people, many who are elderly and afraid, are being held in the backs of ambulances because the hospitals do not have the space.
The figures show an increase of 87% in the numbers of patients who have been forced to wait more than 30 minutes since 2010/11, and a 50% increase in those waiting more than an hour.
The NHS has countered these figures with their own data. They claim that the handover delays during the winter of 2013/14 had shown a decline on the previous year of 30%. However, this data is only applicable to the winter period.
A spokesperson for NHS England said that they are aware that demands on ambulances are increasing annually and an additional £28m is being allocated to ambulance providers to aid them in dealing with these pressures.
The spokesperson stated that in some cases it may be the best thing for a patient to be cared for in the ambulance before being transferred to allow for stabilisation of their condition.
According to NHS guidelines, new A&E arrivals should be taken into the hospital within 15 minutes, however NHS England said that one of the aims of its Urgent and Emergency Care Review is to make use of the abilities and skills of parademics and the wider workforce to allow for ambulances to become more of a mobile treatment service instead of simply a mode of transport.
Image Credit: Elliott Brown