Lives at risk in England as NHS fails to provide ambulances on time
Royal College of Emergency Medicine president reveals that NHS is breaking its agreement to treat the sickest in a timely way.
Lives are at risk in England with NHS callers facing unacceptable waits for ambulances, the country’s top emergency medicine doctor reported.
Dr. Katherine Henderson, head of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said the NHS was under so much strain that it was breaking its "fundamental deal" with the public to treat the sickest patients as soon as possible.
In an unexpected intervention, Henderson stated that urgent and emergency care was in "deeper crisis than ever before," and that the NHS could no longer keep its "contract" with the public to reach critically ill patients who phone 999 on time for the first time in its existence.
Patients with life-threatening diseases, such as heart attacks and strokes, are waiting far too long for emergency care, she reveals, and vulnerable older individuals, in some circumstances, are spending the night on the floor at home after falling.
Soaring demand, massive personnel shortages in the NHS and social care, exacerbated by Covid-related absenteeism, and a severe scarcity of hospital and care home beds are all contributing to the quickly rising situation.
“The true barrier to tackling this crisis is political unwillingness,” Henderson said. “The current situation is breaking the workforce and breaking our hearts.”
Hospitals are facing record demand from patients coming forward after two years of the pandemic while struggling to discharge patients because of the crisis in social care.
As a result, doctors, according to Henderson, are battling to find any space for patients coming to emergency departments (A&E). This is generating record delays in ambulances handing over patients, resulting in 999 callers having to wait up to 22 hours.
Read more: UK: Over 4,500 Patients Died after 12 Hours Waiting Last Year
Corridors are becoming so congested with patients waiting for beds that staff is turning to extreme methods, according to Henderson. "We've all had to start using office areas and storage facilities that can be swiftly converted into cubicles."
Some patients receive their whole medical care in the back of an ambulance outside of a hospital. "It's surreal," Henderson commented. "We're almost done moving emergency medication into the parking lot." She stated that she cannot recall an April when the strain on the NHS was as great as it is now.
Daisy Cooper MP, the Liberal Democrats’ health spokesperson, said: “Record waiting times for ambulances are leading to heartbreaking stories of people waiting hours for an ambulance to arrive, leading to devastating consequences for patients and their families.”
She said ministers had “turned a blind eye” to the crisis in ambulance services and emergency care that was leaving many patients “waiting in pain and distress”.
NHS England stated that the staff was working "flat out" in the face of a rising number of Covid patients, record-high A&E attendances, and tens of thousands of Covid-related absences, all while attempting to address the care backlog. According to a spokeswoman, patients should still "come forward for care" if they require it.
"The government is committed to supporting the NHS and enhancing patient experience," a representative for the Department of Health and Social Care stated, "Contrary claims are completely unfounded."