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Recent statistics report that patients requiring treatment are waiting a long time in ambulances outside of hospitals – what is the issue and what is causing it?
Whilst it is often reported that there are delays in patients being treated within Accident and Emergency departments, it has recently come to light following research carried out by Labour that even before a patient enters the hospital they may be subject to delays due to ambulance queues waiting to admit patients.
It is reported in Labour’s research that in the last year, approximately 300,000 ambulances were forced to queue outside hospitals as patients waited to be seen in Accident and Emergency departments.
Whilst there is a nationally agreed standard waiting time of 15 minutes for ambulances when they arrive at Accident and Emergency Departments, it would seem that some patients are waiting for in excess of 8 hours before they can be admitted.
Whilst sometimes it may be safe for patients to receive treatment in an ambulance or to wait for a transfer to take place, in certain critical conditions this is not a viable option. Furthermore, with ambulances being tied up for long periods of time at a hospital there are fewer vehicles available to answer other emergency calls.
It is apparent from figures obtained by Labour from the Ambulance Trusts around the country that this pressure is being felt in all areas. It has been recorded that the longest single wait in the West Midlands was 8 hours and 11 minutes whilst the South West of England recorded a delay of 7 hours 32 minutes and London recorded 6 hours 10 minutes.
Although these may be extreme examples, every Ambulance Trust in the country has recorded patients waiting for more than 1 hour to be taken into the Accident and Emergency Department.
It is reported that over the last two years there has been an increase in the number of people attending accident and emergency departments and, as these numbers increase, additional pressure is put on hospitals to provide care as more patients arrive.
Whilst it may be agreed that there are unacceptable waits for patients to be seen in the Accident and Emergency Departments, this raises the question as to whether it is a shortage of staff levels in the hospitals or whether the hospitals themselves are no longer sufficient in size to cater for the increasing number of patients attending.
One thing that is clear is that something needs to be done to assist with this increasing pressure and to prevent serious harm to patients attending Accident and Emergency Departments. Patients who have been transported in ambulances may have illness or injury which can change and become very critical very quickly and so delays can sometimes be detrimental to their outcome.
As Clinical Negligence Solicitors we meet Claimants who have suffered avoidable injuries due to a delay in receiving treatment which in turn is sometimes due to the time that they have had to wait to be seen at an Accident and Emergency Department. If you or a member of your family has been affected by these delays and would like to discuss this further then please contact me or a member of the team.