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West Midlands Ambulance Service delays leave patients at high risk

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Ambulance handover delays at West Midlands and Warwickshire hospitals are putting patients at catastrophic risk of harm, say service bosses.

West Midlands Ambulance Service (52707260)
West Midlands Ambulance Service (52707260)

The West Midlands Ambulance Service board of directors heard in a meeting today (27th October) that the amount of time lost to delays had reached levels not seen before, leading to patients dying while waiting for an ambulance.

In response to this the board has categorised handover delays under ‘risk rating 25’, the highest possible level and a category that has never been applied to any risk in the WMAS’s history.

Director of Nursing and Clinical Commissioning, Mark Docherty, said: “The number of hours we are losing is going up at a rate where it’s going to continue to cause significant harm – and indeed probably worse harm if it carries on as it is.

“If we follow the trajectory that winter normally follows it’s only going to get worse, and we will lose so many hours in December, January and February that it’s difficult to see how we will be able to respond to some patients in a time frame that’s acceptable.”

Mr Docherty explained how the number of hours lost to handover delays in the West Midlands were at times “worse than the rest of the country put together.”

In September 1,375 hours were lost by crews stuck outside the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital, while at the Princess Royal the number of lost hours was 768, contributing to a total of over 16,000 lost hours in the West Midlands across that month.

WMAS chairman Professor Ian Cumming stressed that the risk was not to those stuck in ambulances outside hospitals.

He said: “Generally speaking they are safe because they have got a two-person crew with them, they are receiving all the help and support that they need and they are subject to regular triage. So the people who are in our care are as safe as they can be in the back of our vehicles with our highly skilled, highly competent crews.

“The big risk here is the people who we can’t get to, because we can’t free up the vehicles from the hospitals to deal with the stack of calls waiting for us to send a vehicle to them.”

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