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‘Chronic crisis situation’: Ambulance delays worsen as NHS backlog hits 6.6m

‘Chronic crisis situation’: Ambulance delays worsen as NHS backlog hits 6.6m
Some patients needing urgent responses left waiting almost two hours in June as ambulance crisis deepens

国民保健服务 backlog has hit another record high of 6.6 million patients as ambulance response times worsen for those needing the most urgent help.

Amid reports of a summer crisis within the NHS, patients needing urgent responses for conditions such as a suspected stroke were left waiting for up to two hours in June.

The latest data shows the average response for these ‘category two’ patients, who should be seen within 18 分钟, 曾是 51 分钟. Response times have worsened since May, when the average wait for an ambulance for a category two patient was 39 分钟.

For those with the most serious and life-threatening conditions‘category one’ patients, who should be seen within seven minutesthe average response time in June was nine minutes, but some waited up to 16 分钟. This is slightly worse than in May, when the average wait was eight minutes.

Earlier this week it was reported all that 10 ambulance services in the UK were at the highest “black alert” level, while NHS leaders told 独立 the heatwave could be a “tipping point” for the services.

In response to the new figures, Juliet Bouverie OBE, chief executive of the Stroke Association, 说: “Stroke is a medical emergency and every minute is critical. I am incredibly worried that this chronic crisis situation for the ambulance service could have life-threatening consequences for thousands of stroke patients.”

The figures show there was also a record number of 999 calls in June, 和 900,000 answered, and the highest number of ambulance call-outs for the most urgent patients.

Asked about the ambulance service crisis earlier this week, health minister Maria Caulfiled said response times had improved “month on month.”

A report published last month by the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives found more than 3,000 patients in England were likely to have come to severe harm that month as a result of ambulance delays during May.

Long waits in A&E were also worse in June compared to the previous month, 超过 22,000 patients waiting for 12 hours from the time a decision to admit was made. These figures mask the true scale of 12-hour “trolly waits” as they do not measure the wait time from arrival.

The new statistics come as the number of NHS staff off sick due to Covid-related reasons hit 26,874 上个星期, a rise of more than 6,000 一周以内. The last time staff absences reached these levels was mid-April during the previous Omicron wave.

The NHS has also faced further difficulties discharging patients from hospital in June, 超过 11,000 patients needing to be discharged being delayed each day.

在五月 6.6 million patients were recorded as waiting for planned care, 从 6.5 million the previous month. The number of people having to wait more than 52 weeks to start hospital treatment in England stood at 331,623 在五月, 从 323,093 the previous month.

The government and NHS England are aiming to eliminate all waits of more than a year by March 2025.

总计 8,028 people in England were waiting more than two years to start routine hospital treatment at the end of May, NHS England said.

Dr Tim Cooksley, president of the Society for Acute Medicine, 说: “Patients are being stuck for extortionately long periods in emergency departments and acute medical units (AMUs) which results in worse patient outcomes.

“Due to this, paramedics are then stuck unable to transfer their patients into hospitals and get back on the road, resulting in 999 patients being left at home for longer periods without clinical assessment and treatment, driving public concern that they may not get an ambulance at their time of most need.

He warned the heat and rise in Covid patients in July, not yet reflected in the national data, have increased delays for very unwell patients with hospitals not designed to cope with high temperatures.

Professor Sir Stephen Powis, national medical director for NHS England, 说: “Today’s figures show our hardworking teams across the country are making good progress in addressing the Covid backlogs, with record numbers of diagnostic tests and checks in May, and fewer people facing the longest waits for elective care.

“There is no doubt the NHS still faces significant pressures, from rising Covid admissions, thousands of staff absences due to the virus, the heatwave, and record demand for ambulances and emergency care.

“While the current heatwave is not shown in today’s figures, it also affects NHS capacity – but it remains important that anyone needing emergency care dials 999, and the public use 111 online and local pharmacies for other health issues and advice.”