An UNPRECEDENTED number of seriously ill people means that some patients face long waits when they arrive at Bradford hospitals for ambulance
New NHS data from England, for the week to Sunday December 11, highlights the pressures facing the health service.
Yesterday the Yorkshire Ambulance Service declared a ‘critical incident’ amid high levels of demand, significant delays in patients waiting for an ambulance and delays in delivering patients to hospitals.
More than 20 people waited in an ambulance for at least 60 minutes when they arrived at Bradford Royal Infirmary’s A&E, despite NHS targets stating that all transfers must be completed in less than an hour.
It comes as ambulance workers go on strike today in a dispute over pay, with people being urged to only call 999 in a life-threatening situation.
Figures from England’s NHS show that 22 patients waited in an ambulance for at least an hour when they arrived at BRI’s A&E in the week to December 11, up from 20 the week before.
At Airedale Hospital, a patient waited in an ambulance for at least an hour, in line with the previous week.
Another 42 patients at BRI were forced to wait between 30 minutes and an hour, meaning that eight percent of the 762 ambulance arrivals were delayed by half an hour or more.
In Airedale, 16 patients waited between 30 minutes and an hour, meaning that six percent of the 307 ambulance arrivals were delayed by half an hour or more.
The NHS is aiming for state trusts to complete 95 per cent of all ambulance handovers within 30 minutes, with all to be done in less than an hour.
Nick Smith, chief operating officer for Yorkshire Ambulance Service, said: “All NHS trusts are experiencing a prolonged period of operational pressures and this has been exacerbated by delivery delays at a number of busy hospitals across the region. .
“We continue to work closely with our partners to address this issue, as well as reduce wait times for those in need of emergency ambulance response in our communities.
“We continue to monitor the situation closely and thank all of our hard-working staff and volunteers for their efforts during this difficult time.”
A statement on behalf of Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Airedale NHS Foundation Trust said: “Our A&E teams work extremely hard to minimize ambulance delivery delays.
“While we do everything possible to ensure prompt deliveries, there are unprecedented numbers of acutely ill people arriving at our emergency departments, and this can very occasionally cause delivery delays.
“While our Emergency Departments remain busy, we remind people that if you need help or medical advice, please go to www.111.nhs.uk unless it’s a life-threatening emergency, when you should still call 999.”
Around 25,000 delivery delays of half an hour or more were recorded across all hospitals in the week of December 5, according to England’s NHS.
It meant a record 34 percent of all ambulance arrivals being postponed by more than 30 minutes, up from 31 percent the week before.
Meanwhile, 12,500 patients, 17 percent, had to wait more than an hour for delivery, also a record.
A handover delay does not always mean that a patient waited in the ambulance, as they could have been taken to an emergency department, but the handover was not completed.
Saffron Cordery, acting chief executive of NHS Providers, said Trust leaders are concerned the strike action and bitterly cold weather will “add even more pressure to overstretched services”.
At the Yorkshire Ambulance Service, 4,000 of the 7,000 employees will go on strike today.
GMB union members will hold an industrial action today and Wednesday December 28 for 24 hours, between midnight and midnight. This will affect all services.
UNISON members plan to take action today for 12 hours from noon to midnight, affecting only A&E operations.
Significant delays are expected and members of the public are urged to only dial 999 for life-threatening conditions or injuries.
Mr Smith said: “With continued operational pressures and the added challenge of industrial action, we will have fewer resources available to respond.
“Services will be severely disrupted, with the likelihood of significant delays.
“We therefore urge the public to use the emergency ambulance service more wisely and only call 999 when someone is in a very serious or life-threatening condition, as we prioritize our response to the most people in need.
“Ambulances will still be able to respond during the strike, but this will only be where there is an immediate risk to life.
“Less serious calls will go unanswered for the duration of the strike and some patients may be asked to make their own way to hospital where it is safe to do so.”
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