Longer wait for ambulances endangering lives

23 Nov 2021 | Stephanie Prior

According to recent NHS figures, in October this year patients in England who were presenting with potential heart attacks or strokes, had to wait for almost an hour for an ambulance: three times as long as they should have to wait. All across the UK, health targets are being missed. The official ambulance target for life-threatening conditions is seven minutes and for critically ill patients the target is 18 minutes. Despite this, some seriously ill people are waiting up to nine hours for an ambulance.

In addition to the delays in ambulance attendance, the data also demonstrated that there were an unprecedented 1,012,143 calls to the 999 service in October. This meant that the average wait time for the call to be answered was 56 seconds.

Longer waits and lives lost

These delays in call answering and ambulance attendance are almost certainly putting lives at risk. In one case, a sick patient had been assessed as ‘stable’ and was held within an ambulance parked outside the Worcestershire Royal Hospital. After a wait of five hours, the patient became seriously ill and was rushed to the Accident and Emergency resuscitation room, where they died of a cardiac arrest. A patient safety investigation has been launched into the case.

In another case, the BBC reported, 82-year-old Margaret Root, suffered a stroke and waited nearly six hours for an ambulance to take her to hospital and then another three hours before she was taken through the hospital doors. By that stage, nine hours after falling ill, it was too late for her to receive medications that are usually prescribed to reverse the effects of stroke. However, the service Margaret received was speedy compared to that received by a gentleman who waited nine hours for assistance, with his family calling the emergency services six times, before help finally came.

Unacceptable for patients and staff

Richard Webbers, speaking on behalf of the College of Paramedics said ambulances are, ‘simply not providing the level of service they should’ and the situation was ‘unacceptable’…… ‘everyday services are holding hundreds of 999 calls with no-one to send’.

In addition to the suffering faced by patients waiting for care, the working conditions are taking a toll on the paramedics and other healthcare staff. Speaking to the BBC, Webber states, ‘We have members who have been working for 20,30 years and they have never before experienced anything like this, at this time of the year’.

Cause and effect

There are several reasons for the ambulance delays:

  • The pandemic has resulted in greater demand on all health services
  • Calls to the ambulance service are up by 25% from pre-pandemic levels
  • Due to a lack of social community care, hospitals are unable to discharge medically fit patients

These factors all result in delays in handing patients over from ambulances to hospital staff. So, ambulance staff are held up, parked outside hospitals, rather than attending to emergencies. Although ambulances are supposed to transfer patients within 15 minutes of arrival at the hospital, waits of more than an hour are becoming more frequent. This means that in an average 12-hour shift, ambulance staff are attending just one or two incidents instead of the usual six to eight.

Data from the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives backs this up: right now, the number of hours lost due to handover delays is twice as high as it was at the start of the year. Deborah Ward, analyst for the King’s Fund said, ‘Today stats reveal the worst performance since current records began for ambulance calls and A and E’s, suggesting the health and care system is ‘now on its knees’.

Demonstrable harm

A review by the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives published in the Health Service Journal, examined 470 cases of delayed handover to hospital staff on a single day, January 4th, 2021. It was found that 85% of those patients subjected to delayed handover suffered potential harm, and 9% suffered potentially severe harm. As reported by ‘The Times’, when these statistics are extrapolated across a year, as many as 160,000 patients face harm annually, solely due to handover delay.

Bleak winter months

With hospitals and ambulance services already struggling before the onset of winter, the next few months are set to be very bleak for the NHS and for the people that use the service. Doctors are already warning that people are dying in ambulances and in hospital corridors, because emergency services are overwhelmed. For already highly stressed staff, the winter could represent a real breaking point.  Health union GMB said, ‘With grim predictability, Ministers completely ignored’ and a warning for ‘those on the front line. Unless rapid […] action is taken, the winter crisis could become a catastrophe’ (ibid.).

To speak with Stephanie Prior, a partner and senior medical negligence lawyer at Osbornes Law, fill in the online form below.

Share this article

Contact

Speak with Stephanie today

For a free initial conversation call 0207 485 8811

Email us Send us an email and we’ll get back to you






    • "I know [we have] expressed our appreciation, but I also wanted to thank you for all your hard work, time and patience in pursuing mum’s claim through to a successful outcome - your kind and professional approach was genuinely appreciated."

      Client review

    • “May I take this opportunity to thank you for your patience and true compassion in yet another very tough year of representation on the behalf of my wife. I certainly must say you did it all with amazing stamina and positivity which regenerated my self-esteem…. You honestly eased the pain and I can see a healing process ahead.”

      Client

    • Stephanie has developed a particularly strong reputation for her handling of birth injury claims, as well as cases concerning surgical negligence and delays in surgery.

      Chambers UK

    • "Stephanie Prior takes on complex cases and gets excellent results. She has a background in medicine which serves her clients well and is a realistic but tough litigator."

      Legal 500 2021

    • "Stephanie Prior is hugely dedicated, adored by her clients, tenacious, efficient and extremely knowledgeable."

      Legal 500 2021

    • "Stephanie Prior is very good with troubled clients and is easily able to make them feel at ease."

      Legal 500 2021

    • "Stephanie shows sensitivity and deals with things in an understanding way."

      Chambers UK 2021

    • The lawyers in the team are highly experienced and will drive cases very hard on behalf of their clients.

      Legal 500 2020 - Clinical Negligence

    • "Stephanie Prior has a realistic attitude to the complexities of the cases. She wins the trust of her clients and goes the extra mile to ensure they get the best outcomes."

      Legal 500 2020 - Stephanie Prior

    • Stephanie’s background in medicine gives her an ability to read between the lines where medical records and expert evidence are concerned and is a great asset.

      Legal 500 20202 - Stephanie Prior

    • "Her knowledge base is second to none and her understanding of the litigation process stands out, as does her ability to work collaboratively."

      Chambers UK

    • "Stephanie Prior... manages a varied caseload, including obstetric claims, child and adult brain injury cases and fatal and non-fatal spinal cord injury cases."

      Chambers UK

    • "Stephanie is experienced, knowledgeable of all aspects of clinical negligence work, and strategic in running cases."

      Chambers UK

    • "Key team members include the approachable, compassionate and efficient Stephanie Prior."

      The Legal 500

    • Stephanie Prior is always very professional and kind. Highly recommended.

      Medical Negligence Client

    • Stephanie Prior is ‘very warm’ and ‘caring’, and an ‘exceptional professional’.

      Legal 500

    • Stephanie Prior continues to receive widespread praise from clients, who state that she explains the legal aspects of the case very clearly, and she is also a caring person who handles cases on a personal level.

      Chambers UK

    More from StephanieVIEW ALL

    1. 29.6.2022

      Nottingham Maternity: Donna Ockenden to Chair Independent Inquiry

      An interim report on the state of maternity services at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust has just been released. However,...

      Read more
    2. 28.4.2022

      Calls for Public Inquiry into Vaginal Mesh Surgery

      A leading professor from the University of Oxford has called for a public inquiry into the use of vaginal mesh...

      Read more
    3. 6.4.2022

      Stephanie Prior Comments on the Ockenden ‘Maternity Scandal’...

      Following the publication of the Ockenden Report, an independent review of maternity services at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust,...

      Read more
    4. Explaining NHS Never Events
      5.4.2022

      NHS Gynaecology waiting lists rise due to coronavirus

      It has been reported today in the press that as a consequence of the coronavirus pandemic, gynaecology waiting lists in...

      Read more
    5. 23.3.2022

      Nerve injury following bowel surgery

      Stephanie Prior was instructed in a claim against Luton & Dunstable University Hospital where our client sustained an injury to...

      Read more
    6. 23.2.2022

      Record high waiting lists put cancer patient lives...

      In early January 2022 there were nearly six million people in England waiting for routine operations and treatment: a record high....

      Read more
    7. Neglijenta medicala spital din UK
      23.2.2022

      Women from ethnic minorities experience worse maternity care

      It has been reported today that the government has set up a new task force to look into why there...

      Read more
    8. 14.2.2022

      Recent birth injury cases

      Osbornes Law specialises in helping families who have suffered a birth injury. We have represented families who have suffered the...

      Read more
    9. 31.1.2022

      Recent fatal medical negligence cases

      Osbornes Law specialises in helping families who have suffered a fatality due to inadequate medical care. Our specialist team is...

      Read more
    10. 31.1.2022

      Recent Brain Injury Client Stories

      Osbornes Law specialises in helping families who have suffered a brain injury as a result of medical negligence. Our specialist...

      Read more
    11. 18.1.2022

      Basildon hospital maternity unit still needs improvements

      A Channel 4 News investigation into the maternity scandal at Basildon Hospital, which is part of the Mid & South Essex...

      Read more
    12. heart monitor
      4.1.2022

      Five-figure Compensation for Cardiac Negligence

      In this cardiac negligence claim, we were instructed by a 42-year-old Polish man who had attended the Accident and Emergency...

      Read more
    13. negotiation
      4.1.2022

      6 Figure Settlement For Heart Attack Claim

      In this cardiac claim, we were instructed by the widow of a 55-year-old man, who had complained of chest pain...

      Read more
    14. white rose
      1.12.2021

      Maternity claim for fatality following caesarean section

      Stephanie Prior is acting for a gentleman whose wife died after she had a caesarean section. The claim is on...

      Read more
    15. stethoscope
      1.12.2021

      Stillbirth client story

      Stephanie Prior is currently acting for a young woman who was admitted to hospital and left for significant periods of...

      Read more
    16. 18.11.2021

      How do I obtain my GP medical records...

      If you want to obtain copies of your medical records from your GP or the hospital where you have been...

      Read more
    17. 17.11.2021

      NICE revises guidelines on Induced labour

      Most babies are born naturally at around 40 weeks gestation. However, some pregnancies continue for longer. According to data from the...

      Read more
    18. Ambulance vehicles at the Royal London Hospital
      28.9.2021

      Ambulance Delays Affecting Rapid Patient Treatment

      In 2017, the Secretary of State for Health accepted the new ambulance performance standards recommended by NHS England, meaning that the 11...

      Read more
    19. Elderly woman hold smartphone feels disappointed by received bad news
      28.9.2021

      NHS Waiting Lists Impacting Patient Diagnosis

      With waiting lists for NHS England at an all-time high, there is an increased risk that life-threatening conditions are not...

      Read more
    20. man texting to complain
      25.9.2021

      Can I Complain About Substandard Medical Treatment?

      Most people have positive experiences with medical professionals and are satisfied with the medical treatment they receive. However, in some...

      Read more
    21. maternity hospital
      25.9.2021

      Compensation for Negligence in Maternity Cases

      According to the UK’s National Audit Office, the cost to the NHS of medical negligence compensation is currently sitting...

      Read more
    22. 5.8.2021

      Vulnerable man suffers stroke after carers fail to...

      Grandfather who almost dies after ‘negligent’ care receives £900,000 settlement A grandfather who had a stroke and almost died when carers...

      Read more
    23. 20.7.2021

      Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch

      The HSIB (Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch) is an independent organisation made up of a team of investigators and analysts whose...

      Read more
    24. doctor
      13.7.2021

      Substandard care by GP

      Stephanie Prior acted on behalf of J in connection with a claim relating to substandard care by her GP. The...

      Read more

    VIEW ALL