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Hundreds of patients faced ambulance delays at the Royal Free

NHS England figures show 268 patients waited between 30 and 60 minutes in an ambulance when they arrived at hospitals run by the main trust serving Barnet in the week to December 3th reports Marieta Marinova, Data Reporter

Four yellow ambulances lined up outside a hospital
Across the country, 10% of patients were held for over an hour in the week to December 3, while 17% took at least 30 minutes – (Credit – Radar)

Hundreds of ambulance patients faced significant delays when being handed over to accident and emergency services at the main hospital trust serving Barnet in the week to December 3rd, new figures show.

Ambulance services across England have improved in the first week of the month this year compared to the same period last year.

However, experts said while there is hope this winter will not be a repeat of the last, it is still unlikely ambulance handovers will get below the 15-minute target.

NHS England figures show 268 patients waited between 30 and 60 minutes in an ambulance when they arrived at Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust in the week to December 3rd.

This meant 31% of 871 patients experienced delays – a significant increase from 20% during the same period in 2022. The figures cover patients for whom the handover time was known.

Meanwhile, 32 other people (4%) were forced to wait for more than an hour, and 385 handovers (44%) took between 15 and 30 minutes.

Danielle Jefferies, senior analyst at health think tank The King’s Fund, said: “The combination of tight budgets, rising Covid-19 and flu cases, and industrial action, make it unlikely that ambulance handovers will get below the 15-minute target this winter.

“The Government needs more long-term, big-picture thinking if it’s to truly solve the issue of ambulance handover delays.”

The NHS states trusts should complete 95% of all ambulance handovers in 30 minutes and all should be conducted in less than one hour.

But across the country, 10% of patients were held for over an hour in the week to December 3, while 17% took at least 30 minutes.

Jefferies added: “Long queues of ambulances waiting to handover outside A&E have a real impact on patient safety, patient experience, and the morale of staff.

“These figures suggest there is some hope for the NHS that this winter will not be a repeat of last. However, there is no doubt this will still be a tough winter for ambulance crews and A&E staff alike.”

Jessica Morris, fellow at the Nuffield Trust, said: “While ambulance handover delays have improved somewhat when compared with this time last year, the situation in 2022 was truly dire and the problems facing emergency care were compounded by the ambulance staff strikes we saw last winter.”

Morris added she expects more difficult weeks ahead thanks to very high bed occupancy rates and the threat of looming strikes.

An NHS England spokesperson said: “This year, we set out our plans for winter earlier than ever before.

“As part of our urgent and emergency care recovery plan, we are rolling out a host of measures to both improve hospital flow, reduce ambulance handover delays further, and increase the number of ambulance hours on the road, including 5,000 extra core beds to boost capacity and reduce waiting times for patients.”


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