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NHS Ambulances at Crisis Point


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The UK ambulance service have suffered delays of over an hour and in some regions over 2 hours in getting to category 2 patients, with additional delays at handover to A&E departments at UK hospitals. Category 2 patients are categorised as emergency calls including stroke and heart attack patients. Whilst category 1 emergency calls are the most serious life-threatening injuries and illnesses, which also suffered delays.

According to NHS UK’s ambulance service standards, ambulance services have an allocated 60 seconds from the time they receive an emergency call to the dispatching of ambulance and should take 18 minutes on average for the ambulance to arrive. However, this week, it has taken 70 minutes in England for category 2 ambulances to arrive for heart attack and stroke patients and up to two hours in the worst affected region.

NHS England have received the highest call out for emergency calls in the last month. Data from NHS Hospital Trust in England for Covid-19 related staff absences shows that about 40,000 staff were away as of January 9, 2022. The service is stretched due to being short staffed resulting in delayed attendance to critical patients.

An 18-year-old died of cardiac arrest in West Midlands as a result of a delayed ambulance on a 999 call just this week. According to a media source, the ambulance service’s nursing and commissioning executive director, Mark Docherty stated on this case “We were three minutes too late to save him”.

In another case, a pensioner, Emlyn Roberts, 69, was left reportedly ‘moaning’ with pain when tripped on pavement in town centre of Colwyn Bay, North Wales on March 29, waiting 10 hours for an ambulance. Other people have reported between 12-to-20-hour delays for an ambulance to arrive.

It’s not only the delays in ambulances arriving but waiting times inside the ambulance outside hospital emergency departments with a quarter of the patients waiting at least 30 minutes to be handed over to the A&E department.

NHS bosses have pinned the emergency services delay on high demand and staffing issues due to Covid-19 staff absences.



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