The number of people left waiting in ambulances outside accident and emergency (A&E) departments for more than half an hour has risen by over 100,000 in just two years, raising fears over the NHS’s ability to safely achieve the government’s aim of £20bn in efficiency savings.
Six of the country’s major ambulance trusts have admitted to rises in the number of patients stalled before admission to hospital. In those trusts, a total of 444,158 people endured the experience of being stuck in an ambulance for over 30 minutes before admission to A&E in the financial year 2011-12, compared with 340,335 in 2009-10.
Hospital trusts are meant to allow for ambulance services to hand over a patient, clean the ambulance and get back out on the road within 15 minutes.
The College of Emergency Medicine has said it is unsafe to leave patients in ambulances for more than 15 minutes.
Andy Burnham, the shadow health secretary, said: “The government’s mishandling of the NHS has brought it to the brink. The entire system is now backing up – hospitals full, longer waits in A&E – and it risks being overwhelmed.
“Ambulances are spending hours on end at A&Es unable to discharge patients, leaving whole towns without proper ambulance cover. The health system is creaking at the joints and is in danger of being plunged into chaos. At the moment, the NHS needs leadership most, David Cameron has given it a health secretary who’s headed off on a two week holiday.”
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