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December 05, 2022

Patients Dying Due To Crippling Delays Faced By Ambulances In England

NHS bosses are warning that ambulance crews are facing crippling delays when they arrive at A&E with sick patients. Reports gathered over the past week showed that nearly three in 10 ambulances were queueing outside hospitals in England.

NHS England data has shown that this is the worst start to winter since records began. According to ambulance chiefs, the problems are leading to patient harm and death on a daily basis.

Martin Flaherty, managing director of the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives (AACE), said: "These crippling delays are a twin threat - they cause significant harm to patients who are forced to wait in the back of our ambulances, while our crews are stuck and therefore unable to respond to patients who need us out in the community.

He also said that there are serious concerns that things will get worse in the coming weeks as the colder winter weather approaches. According to him, the life-saving safety net that NHS ambulance services provide is being severely compromised by the delays they are facing as patients are dying and coming to harm on a daily basis.

From its own analysis, the AACE says that 44,000 patients may have come to harm because of delays seen during October.

Fears of tripledemic 'very real'

Normally, ambulance crews are expected to hand over patients to hospital staff within 15 minutes of arrival. However, it has been noticed that 29% of the nearly 80,000 arrivals seen in the seven days up to last Sunday waited for 30 minutes or more before handing over their patients.

This is higher than 23% last year at the start of winter, and 15% in 2019 before the pandemic began. Also, the weekly report by NHS England - the first of this winter - showed that more than half of the ambulance crews arriving at about a tenth of England hospitals were delayed

Additionally, the report showed that almost 400 patients in hospitals had flu. This is already three times higher than the peak seen last winter and this is only the beginning of the flu season.

Last year, as at this time, there were very low levels of flu as people were still cautious about mixing because of Covid.

Prof Sir Stephen Powis said these numbers showed that fears of the so-called "tripledemic" - high levels of flu, Covid and a respiratory infection called RSV - were very real. He added that hospitals were facing huge pressures with 19 out of 20 beds occupied due to the difficulties in discharging patients who needed support in the community. According to him, this was the main reason why there are ambulance handover delays as staff were struggling to find beds for new patients.

The data according to Matthew Taylor, of the NHS Confederation, which represents hospitals shows that the NHS is facing one of the worst winters for decades.

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