Helen Morgan MP, North Shropshire Liberal Democrats

Figures reveal extent of worst-ever handover delays as top medic warns of collapse


25th May 2022

Nearly 150 patients were forced to wait longer than 10 hours in ambulances outside hospitals in the region in just one month as handover delays reached their worst ever level – leading to a top nurse warning of imminent collapse.

Forty of these patients were stranded outside two hospitals in Shropshire, where handover delays are among the worst in the region. They were among 1,253 people stuck in ambulances for more an hour or longer in Shrewsbury and Telford in April, new figures from West Midlands Ambulance Service (WMAS) show.

North Shropshire MP Helen Morgan is calling for a full CQC inquiry into ambulance delays in Shropshire, with the figures being released as the ambulance service’s director of nursing warned that the system will collapse by August.

Meanwhile people in life-threatening conditions in Shropshire faced nearly double the wait of people in Birmingham and the Black Country. Figures reveal how much response times vary by postcode, with the average (mean) response in Shropshire being 12 minutes and four seconds compared to 6:32 in the Black Country and 6:48 in Birmingham.

Helen Morgan MP said: “These statistics show how people living in rural areas like Shropshire are those worst affected by the terrible delays to ambulances across the country.

“My Liberal Democrat colleagues and I have been calling for the CQC to launch a full inquiry into the causes of this crisis and for the Government to wake up and take action since the autumn.

“April was the worst month in the history of West Midlands Ambulance Service for handover delays despite it being spring and not one of the busier months on the health service.

“If major steps aren’t taken the winter is going to be even more bleak. That is if the service survives the summer, with the ambulance service’s most senior nurse predicting a ‘Titanic’ collapse in August.”

Meanwhile WMAS Director Mark Docherty warned that patients are dying every day due to ambulance delays and said the service faces a “Titanic moment” in the coming months.

He questioned why NHS England and the Care Quality Commission were “not all over” the issue of handover delays and said that by August 17 one third of WMAS’s resource will be lost to delays meaning that the service is unable to respond.

A report to the WMAS board this week showed that more than 17,795 hours were lost across the region in April due to waits of 30 minutes or longer outside hospitals, which is the highest number of lost hours in the service’s history.

Four hospitals were hit hardest by ambulance delays and had more than 40% of patients waiting one hour or longer. These were Shrewsbury, Telford, Worcester and Stoke.

The board report warned how patient handover delays continue to cause significant harm and death and are leading to an increasing number of serious incidents each month.

The risk rating for handover delays was moved to the highest possible level (25) for the first time ever in October and has not changed, with the problem getting worse not better.

Helen Morgan is requesting an Urgent Question in Parliament asking for the Care Quality Commission to investigate the huge ambulance delays leading to avoidable deaths in Shropshire and across the UK.

Helen continued: “Only this week I have been contacted by a constituent who was warned they faced a six-hour wait despite their husband having suffered a suspected heart attack.

“People are dying while ambulances are stuck waiting to handover patients at hospitals.

“It’s not fair on the hard-working nurses, doctors and paramedics having to try and deal with this pressure and it’s not fair on people in rural areas who are forced to wait hours and hours wondering if an ambulance will ever arrive. And that’s before worrying about the handover delay.”

 

KEY STATS – All for April 2022 unless specified

HANDOVER DELAYS 

  • 40 people waited longer than 10 hours to be handed over to Shrewsbury and Telford hospitals in one month (20 at each hospital).
  • Across the West Midlands 148 patients were forced to wait more than 10 hours.
  • 1,253 people (or 42%) waited more than an hour to be handed over to Shrewsbury and Telford hospitals. More than 80% of all ambulance patients had to wait more than 30 minutes.
  • Of the four hospitals in the West Midlands (out of 21 total) with figures higher than 40% for hour+ delays, two were in Shropshire. The others were Worcester and Stoke.
  • Across the West Midlands, the number of ambulances waiting more than one hour to handover patients has increased by 473% from 1,766 in April 2021 to 10,119 in April 2022.
  • 2,524 hours were lost by ambulances waiting outside Shrewsbury and Telford hospitals for more than 30 minutes in one month (1,156 at Shrewsbury and 1,368 at Telford). This is a 580% increase on April 2021 when 370 hours were lost (265 at Shrewsbury and 105 at Telford).
  • 32,084 hours were lost in the West Midlands as a whole – an increase of 587%.

 

RESPONSE TIMES 

  • Shropshire continues to have the longest wait for an ambulance in all of the West Midlands with average (mean) waits of 12 minutes 4 seconds for life-threatening category 1 calls, when the regional target is seven minutes.
  • This is almost double the average response time in Birmingham (6:48) and the Black Country (6:32). The average time across the West Midlands is 8:16.
  • The average (mean) wait for category four calls was 290 minutes in Shropshire when the target is 180 minutes.

 

 

 


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