A&E delays: patients waiting in ambulances for up to six hours

Ambulance

'Alarming' figures show patients waiting outside hospitals for much longer than 15-minute target

LAST UPDATED AT 09:47 ON Mon 9 Dec 2013

PATIENTS taken to A&E have been waiting for up to six hours in ambulances, according to "alarming" new figures.

Under the Freedom of Information Act, the BBC asked all UK ambulance services for their longest waits for each of the 12 weeks from early August to the end of October.

The longest waiting times were seen in Wales, where one ambulance was left queuing for six hours 22 minutes. In the east of England, a patient waited for five hours and 51 minutes - much longer than the recommended 15 minutes. Delays of more than 30 minutes can lead to fines for hospitals in England.

No service was able to report a longest waiting time of less than an hour, with many around the two-hour mark. In Wales, each weekly maximum wait for the 12 week period was above three hours.

Scotland had the best record in the UK with none of the weekly maximums exceeding two hours, while Northern Ireland and the Isle of Wight failed to provide data.

Dr Clifford Mann, president of The College of Emergency Medicine, described the figures as "alarming". He said that there would always be a "small number" of patients whose transfer was delayed, but not to the extent of these figures.

"And remember, these figures relate to the three months up till October," he added. "They don't include the really pressured time of the winter and so it's unlikely these figures are going to improve - and that must be a cause for concern."

A Welsh government spokesman said that lengthy patient handover delays "are clearly unacceptable", but added that the long delays were the "exception to the rule" as the average waiting times in Wales were around the 20-minute mark.

Barbara Hakin of NHS England said it was "essential" that ambulances were back on the road as soon as possible after taking patients to A&E. But she said that while there were pressures on the system, the number of delays lasting over 30 minutes was currently running at almost 4,500 a week - down on last year's figure. · 

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