About 300,000 ambulances were left queuing outside hospitals last year, with patients waiting up to eight hours, or even longer, to be transferred into A&E, according to research by the Labour Party.
Freedom of Information requests to English Ambulance Trusts produced figures showing that the number of patients waiting in the back of ambulances to be transferred into A&Es virtually doubled in three years – up from 99,661 in 2010/11 to 193,088 in 2012/13
There was also a doubling in the number of patients who waited longer than one hour to be transferred from an ambulance into A&E – increasing from 14,580 in 2010/11 to 29,601 in 2012/13
South Central Ambulance Trust had a seven-fold increase in the number of patients who waited longer than two hours.
The longest recorded delay was more than eight hours, despite the 15-minute nationally agreed standard, while 279,207 ambulances were delayed for more than half an hour and a further 30,601 reported waits lasting over an hour.
Figures from the West Midlands revealed the longest single wait at eight hours, eleven minutes. In the south west of England, one patient was in a queue for seven hours 32 minutes, in London the longest delay was six hours, ten minutes.
Jamie Reed MP, Labour’s Shadow Health Minister, said: ‘Patients and hospitals are paying the price for David Cameron’s mismanagement of the NHS, and decision to proceed with a top-down reorganisation of the NHS that he promised wouldn’t happen.
‘The unfolding crisis in A&E is a clear and visible symptom of a system under pressure and there is no more visible sign than ambulances queuing up outside A&E. The government has tried to blame everybody else for this chaos. The NHS needs leadership but instead it has David Cameron who is taking it backwards.’
Dr Cliff Mann, of the College of Emergency Medicine, said: ‘It is our view that emergency departments should have sufficient capacity to meet demand, and that means ambulances should be able to transfer patients into departments immediately on arrival.
‘It has been clear that this has been difficult to achieve at times. This problem is symptomatic of the pressures emergency departments are facing.’
A Unison spokeswoman told News Line yesterday: ‘This is totally unacceptable and is a perennial problem that the government needs to get a grip of. While ambulances are outside A&E other emergencies are being left uncovered.
‘The problem starts in A&E where there they do not have the capacity to deal with the number of patients. It’s clear more money needs to go into A&E and into tackling the beds crisis in hospitals.
‘The increased number of ambulances outside A&E is a result of closures of A&E departments without proper consideration as to where these patients are going to go.’