Patients who are “seriously ill”, including those suffering a heart attack or a stroke and burns victims, are waiting over an hour for an ambulance to arrive in England and Wales.
When a seriously ill patient calls an ambulance, it should arrive within 18 minutes. But one in 16 seriously ill patients is waiting over an hour for paramedic attendance, with some waiting over five hours. East Midlands Ambulance Service had the greatest number of long delays – one in eight calls took over an hour.
The North East Ambulance Service is launching a full investigation after a patient died at home whilst waiting over an hour for an ambulance crew to attend. He had suffered a gastrointestinal haemorrhage, which causes internal bleeding.
Another patient, in Shropshire, waited over two hours for paramedics to arrive after suffering a heart attack. In a joint statement, the hospital and ambulance trust apologised for the delays.
What is a category two emergency, i.e. a “seriously ill” patient?
- Heart attack*
- Serious injury/trauma**
- Possible blood poisoning
- Major burns
*if still conscious and breathing; **not including uncontrollable bleeding
Matter of life and death
Rachel Power, chief executive of the Patients Association, said patients were being “let down badly at their moment of greatest need,” and a quick response could be “a matter of life or death”.
She said the delays were undoubtedly related to the continued underfunding of the NHS.
Mark MacDonald of the Stroke Association described the findings as “alarming”, saying a quick assessment and transfer to hospital for brain scans was vital if a patient was going to make a good recovery.
“When stroke strikes, part of your brain shuts down. And so does a part of you. Around two million neurons are lost every minute that a stroke is untreated.”
Ally Taft, a partner with Medical Accident Group, said: “The delays in ambulances reaching patients who are seriously ill is deeply concerning, especially as prompt paramedic attendance is needed in these circumstances. Action must be taken to improve these delays and improve the overall chance of recovery provided to patients.”
If you or a family member have suffered from ambulance delays, or paramedic treatment, Medical Accident Group is here to help. We have a team of dedicated clinical negligence solicitors who will guide you through the process of making a claim. Call the team now on 0800 050 1668 or fill in the form below.