Quarter of ambulances getting stuck in A&E queues

By Nick Triggle and Christine Jeavans
BBC News

Nearly a quarter of patients brought to hospital in an ambulance are facing dangerous delays getting into hospital in England, NHS data shows.
Ambulances are meant to hand over patients within 15 minutes of arriving.
But in the past week 23% out of nearly 84,000 patients brought in waited over 30 minutes.
Staff are warning patients are being put at risk by the delays – and they think the situation is only going to get worse as Covid infections rise.
At seven NHS trusts more than half patients were left waiting over half an hour with nearly two thirds delayed at Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Trust.
Association of Ambulance Chief Executives managing director Martin Flaherty said the situation was a major concern.
"The extent of potential harm that is being caused to patients when there are lengthy delays remains a significant and growing problem."
He said work was going on to tackle the issue, but around a quarter of hospitals were really struggling.
The 23% figure, which covers the seven days to Sunday, represents a rise from 11% during the same week last year and 15% in 2019, before then pandemic began.
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When patients arrive at hospital by ambulance they should be handed over within 15 minutes. This data shows the proportion of ambulance patients who waited 30 minutes or more, in the week shown. It comes from daily situation reports which are published weekly during the winter in England. As this is fast-turnaround data, the NHS says only minimal validation can be carried out but it is considered fit for purpose.
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland do not publish ambulance queue data.
Patients at A&E should be seen within four hours of arrival. This data shows the proportion of patients attending A&E who waited longer than four hours to be treated, discharged or admitted.
This data is published monthly for England and Wales and weekly for Scotland. Northern Ireland publishes its data quarterly and Winter 2021 is not yet available.
If a patient at A&E needs to be admitted, the wait from decision to admit to being given a bed on a ward is recorded in England. The bed waits figure is the proportion of patients admitted via A&E who waited longer than four hours for a ward bed.
In Wales, bed wait data is not published, so the figure shown is the occupancy level in general and acute beds. Scotland and Northern Ireland do not publish bed wait or bed occupancy data.
Data for England is show by NHS trust, where the trust includes at least one hospital with a Type 1 A&E department. Type 1 means a consultant-led 24 hour A&E service with full resuscitation facilities.
When you enter a postcode for a location in England you will be shown a list of NHS trusts in your area. They will not necessarily be in order of your closest hospital as some trusts have more than one hospital. Data for Wales and Scotland are shown by NHS board.
Comparative data from two years ago is shown where available. However, where trusts have merged there is no like-for-like comparison to show. Bed occupancy data in Wales only goes back to April 2020.
If you can't see the lookup, click here
Dr Ian Higginson, vice president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said it reflected the whole system was under "intolerable pressure".
"Emergency departments are full and with no beds to move patients into ambulances are being held outside and unsafe handover delays are becoming normalised rather than being seen for the failure that they represent.
"This is a crisis of patient safety. Exceptionally long waits, ambulance handover delays, crowded departments, care in corridors, all put patients and their safety at risk."
Dr Higginson said hospitals were particularly struggling to discharge patients who were medically fit to leave but needed support in the community because of the lack of social care.
More than one in 10 beds are occupied by patients in this position.
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