Key challenges around significant ambulance delays and patient safety heightened during pandemic

The UK ambulance service was once the envy of the world and the ‘Gold Standard’ in emergency response safety. Target timescale to attend a life threatening incident is 8 minutes, and 19 minutes for non-life threatening incident. These targets are now invariably missed, sometimes leading to fatal consequences. Reports of people waiting for hours is not uncommon. Recent media reports include a 78 year old left waiting on the pavement for over 6 hours with a broken hip. An amateur footballer with a broken leg waiting in agony in torrential rain for more than 8 hours and this week, the victim of an accident gave up after waiting 4 hours and made his own way to A&E where he was later diagnosed with various broken bones and a fractured skull. These intolerable waits are increasing and the pandemic has highlighted these failings even more whilst placing further pressure on an already “Failing” and “Broken service”. One of the significant reasons for these delays is the ridiculous and archaic system requiring ambulance crews to personally ‘hand-over’ the patient to the hospital team. It has now become a common sight to see rows of ambulances parked up at A&E’s the length and breadth of the country waiting to ‘hand-over’ their patient. In the meantime their vehicle is out of service whilst emergency calls continue to be received. This week it was reported ambulance teams waiting over 8 hours to ‘hand-over’ their patient to A&E staff. That’s an entire shift!! Is this really the most sensible, efficient and effective use of highly trained and much needed emergency responders? In the meantime, targets continue to be missed, waiting times grow longer, queues of ambulances increase and more people will die unnecessarily. There has to be a better system.




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