The NHS broke its “fundamental promise” to the public to save lives emergency assistance when they need it, a leading NHS doctor has said, with ambulances wasting tens of thousands of hours on the street hospitals.
Catherine Henderson, president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said the “fundamental promise” of the NHS to provide emergency care in a genuine emergency was “broken”.
Her words sound like the West Midlands Ambulance Service (WMAS) The Trust predicted it would lose 48,000 hours waiting for an ambulance outside of A&E in July. It would be the worst month ever.
In documents released on Thursday, WMAS says the effects of transfer delays mean patients are waiting longer than necessary for emergency care, including category one patients who require immediate life-saving care.
It added: “This means that patients who seek critical emergency care immediately do not receive the response they need and may suffer significant harm or death.”
According to the trust, at the moment in 2022-2023, 262 cases of damage have been registered. This is already more than 152 registered for the whole of 2021-2022.
Between April and June, the trust recorded 631 cases where ambulances were delayed outside the hospital for more than 20 hours.
The Independent understands WMAS lost 2,000 hours outside A&Es on Thursday, the worst day since April. Last week, the service lost 2,200 hours in one day.
In line with forecasts of a loss of 48,000 hours of service this month, sources say it will lose 60,000 hours on that trajectory by mid-August, or 30 percent of total ambulance hours.
The predictions come after the service’s chief nursing officer, Mark Doherty, predicted the service would collapse by August 17 in an interview Journal of Health Care the last month.
Last week The Independent showed reports from the Association of Emergency Managers that said nearly 200,000 patients were affected by delays in EMS transfers.
The warnings about ambulance service delays come as the NHS continues to face significant summer pressure. All hospitals in Derby and Derbyshire declared a critical incident on Thursday due to “significant and sustained demand for urgent and emergency care”.
Talking to The Independent a paramedic from East Anglia said: “Patients are dying waiting for an ambulance. Most people with chest pain wait four hours and eventually stop breathing while waiting for us. Often when we arrive, it’s too late… The response time of the first category is terrible. Currently, in many areas, ambulances take 45 minutes to get to these calls.’
The region said it had to postpone some non-urgent operations that would require a hospital bed to accommodate patients with the most immediate needs.
Speaking at a patient safety Speaking at the Kings Fund event on Thursday, Dr Catherine Henderson, president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said: “At the moment we are really struggling to make progress in patient safety. The basic agreement we have with the public is that if something bad happens and you dial 999 and an ambulance arrives on time, we have broken that promise. That fundamental promise we had where you go, well, I might be waiting for a hip replacement, but at least they’ll be there for me in a real emergency.
“This situation is broken.”
Dr Henderson said the most important thing for the NHS to do was to address the issue, which she described as “the biggest single patient safety issue, unknown, unknown”.
“These are patients in the community about whom we know nothing. We don’t know what happened except for basic information. We need to address the ambulance delay situation… This is important to ensure a ‘decent’ health care system,” she said.