A record number of patients suffered serious injuries last month as they spent longer in the back of an ambulance to get to A&E, new NHS figures reveal.

An estimated 57,000 people in England experienced “potential harm”, with 6,000 exposed to “serious harm” in December – both the highest numbers on record – because they had to wait at least an hour to be handed over to hospital staff. According to NHS Ambulance Service bosses.

Health union Unison, which represents many ambulance workers, said the data showed the ambulance service was “struggling to cope” with the huge number of calls it was receiving.

A senior ambulance service official said the high volume of patients put at risk because they had to wait outside A&E for too long before receiving medical attention, and that paramedics were prevented from responding to other 999 calls, was “appalling” and “astronomical”.

He added: “These figures also show that while NHS England is trying to tackle this huge problem, it is clearly not working.”

Figures published on Wednesday by the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives (AACE) also show that in December ambulance teams were tied up in hospitals for so long that on 181,000 occasions they could not respond to 999 pleas for help.

That number represented almost one in three (31%) of all 999 calls received last month – again the highest proportion since records began. At the beginning of 2020, this equivalent figure was only 8%.

AACE’s monthly report on transfer delays also revealed that:

  • A total of 227,000 hours were “lost” by crews stuck outside A&E units, double the number of hours recorded a year earlier.

AACE managing director Martin Flaherty said: “Our December 2022 figures for transfer delays in hospital emergency departments show some of the worst figures we have ever recorded and clearly underline that these are dangerous, unsafe and not enough is being done to eradicate them. Harmful events.”

Sarah Gorton, head of health at Unison, said: “Ministers are guilty of neglecting the NHS on an industrial scale. Ambulance handover delays the entire system’s scream malfunction.

“Under the government’s watch, the ambulance service is under pressure in the winter to barely cope throughout the year. It’s no wonder people are leaving faster than new recruits can be hired.

In the latest evidence of how ambulance delays are costing lives, there is a coroner opened an inquiry How two Devon women died earlier this month after ambulance services took nine hours and seven hours respectively to reach them.

Sharon Ford, 54, of Brixham, and Iris Collings, 72, of Paganton, both died from strokes. Delays in getting to an ambulance mean they cannot receive thrombolysis treatment to maximize their chances of survival.

A full investigation will follow.

An NHS spokesman said: “Last month the NHS responded to more than 100,000 of the most serious emergency ambulance callouts as well as 1 million 999 calls – both the highest totals on record for December, as a ‘twindemic’ of flu and Covid-19. increased

“NHS staff are working hard to reach patients as quickly as possible. It is vital that people continue to call 999 in life-threatening emergencies, as well as use NHS 111 online for other health needs, where they can receive clinical advice on the best next step. will do

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