Shocking new figures on the length of time patients wait in ambulances outside A&E departments have been uncovered by Norman Lamb, Liberal Democrat MP for North Norfolk.
The number of people waiting longer than 2 hours to be handed over to hospital staff quadrupled over the last 3 years, according to figures obtained from England's ten ambulance trusts following Freedom of Information requests.
A total of 10,418 people waited more than 2 hours in 2015/16 - a dramatic increase from just 2,215 in 2013/14. The figures were unveiled on ITV's Good Morning Britain.
Patients in London and the West Midlands were forced to endure waits of more than 9 hours before being admitted to A&E. The audit also showed that the number of people waiting more than an hour almost trebled from 26,462 to 70,504 over the same period.
The national target for handing patients over from ambulance crews to hospital staff is 15 minutes. However, figures show that a total of 397,308 hours were wasted due to handover delays exceeding this 15-minutes target - which is equivalent to a staggering 16,554 days.
In the North West, the number of people waiting for more than an hour increased four-fold and the number waiting more than 2 hours increased ten-fold. In the East of England, seven times as many people were waiting over 2 hours, while the total number of hours lost due to handover delays more than doubled from 25,000 to almost 55,000.
Commenting on the findings, Norman Lamb said:
“It is hard to imagine just how distressing it must be for a patient, having been rushed to A&E in urgent need of treatment, to then be left waiting hours for the care they need. The strain this puts on NHS staff and finances is also unsustainable.
“The Government cannot ignore the desperate state acute hospitals are now in, as they struggle to cope with the demand for services and limited resource. And it is quite clear that this problem is getting rapidly worse, not better.
“If the Health Secretary wants to show he is serious about protecting patients, and safeguarding our health and care services for future generations, he must bring together a commission of independent and cross-party experts to look at how to deliver health and care more sustainably and to secure a new long term financial settlement for the NHS and social care. These figures are yet more evidence of how seriously such a Commission is needed. At present the Government is sleep-walking towards a severe crash in the NHS which will have dreadful consequences for patients.”
Norman Lamb has also written a blog for Liberal Democrat Voice.