Patients spent almost 150 extra hours in ambulances at Bedfordshire Hospitals Trust last week

Patients spent almost 150 extra hours in ambulances at Bedfordshire Hospitals Trust last week

Across England, more patients were waiting in an ambulance for more than an hour than at any point last winter.

Health organization King’s Fund has said the NHS is “bursting at the seams” as it recovers from the coronavirus pandemic and tries to meet soaring demand, while think tank Nuffield Trust said it was “painfully visible that the emergency services be under a lot of stress”. .

An ambulance outside an Accident and Emergency Department

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Figures from NHS England show 87 patients were waiting in an ambulance for at least an hour when they arrived at Bedfordshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust A&E in the week ending Sunday (December 4) – up from 51 the week before.

Another 99 patients had to wait between 30 minutes and an hour, meaning that 22% of the total of 829 ambulances were delayed by half an hour or more and at least 148 hours were lost.

Unfortunately there is no further breakdown between the two hospitals within the trust – Bedford and Luton & Dunstable.

NHS targets government trusts to complete 95% of all ambulance handovers in 30 minutes, with all completed in under an hour.

Danielle Jefferies, an analyst at the King’s Fund, said improving ambulance delays has been a government priority for some time.

Ms Jefferies added: “Problems at the front door of the hospital indicate problems at the back door.

“People are stranded in hospital due to a lack of long-term investment in social care and NHS community services.”

Nationwide, 24,000 (31%) handovers were delayed by at least 30 minutes last week, while 11,300 (15%) had to wait more than an hour.

Both are well above the comparable weeks of December 2020 and 2021, reaching higher levels than any other week last winter.

Sarah Scobie – Deputy Director of Research at the Nuffield Trust – said: “NHS hospitals are struggling desperately to admit and discharge patients quickly enough and the situation continues to deteriorate as the temperature drops and we head into the most difficult of winter months.

“Ambulances are one of the most visible and important cogs in the rescue engine, and it is becoming increasingly painfully obvious that they are under a lot of strain.

“The Government has pledged additional funding to address the delayed discharges behind some of these problems, but it is far too late in the day to have a meaningful impact this winter.”

Steve Barclay – Health and Social Care Secretary – said the Government is providing £8billion in funding “to boost performance and bring services back to pre-pandemic levels”.

Mr Barclay added: “The coming months will be challenging but I am committed to managing wait times and improving patient access.

“We are providing an additional £500m to speed up hospital discharges, get ambulances back to work faster, increase the number of NHS call workers and create the equivalent of at least 7,000 extra beds.”

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