More ambulances are being delayed outside A&Es

12 January 2018
What was claimed

Nurses are spending entire shifts in A&E car parks because of ambulance delays.

Our verdict

An unnamed nurse said this to ITV News, although we don’t know how widespread this is. One in six ambulances were delayed for over half an hour after arriving at A&Es in England in the first week of 2018.

“There are nurses who are spending their shifts, their entire shifts in the car park of the hospital because ambulances are parked up and can't get into the hospital.”

Dawn Butler, 11 January 2018

An unnamed nurse told ITV News this week she has sometimes spent whole days treating patients in the cak park of her hospital due to pressures on hospitals over winter. She also claimed increasing numbers of nurses were facing the same situation.

We can’t factcheck individual experiences of accident and emergency services, and there’s no way to know how many nurses are having to take measures like this. But the pressures being talked about echo, to an extent, what we do know about the recent situation facing A&Es in England. We haven’t yet seen detailed data from the rest of the UK on ambulance delays.

These aren’t the only anecdotal reports that have come out of A&Es thi s week. A letter to the Prime Minister from 68 senior A&E doctors listed some of their personal experiences too. According to the doctors these experiences include “patients sleeping in clinics as makeshift wards” and “over 120 patients a day managed in corridors, some dying prematurely”.

Ambulance delays are one key pressure that’s been measured across England in recent weeks.

In the first week of 2018, nearly 16,700 ambulances were delayed by over half an hour after arriving at an A&E department in England, which is one is six of all ambulances that arrived that week. Nearly 5,100—or one in 20—were waiting over an hour.

That varies a lot across the country. The most severe case last week was in Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh, where over half of all ambulance arrivals faced delays over over half an hour and over a quarter of over an hour. Meanwhile a handful of other trusts didn’t experience any such delays.

The picture was similar in the recent Christmas week: overall across England 16,900 ambulances were waiting at least 30 minutes and 4,700 for over an hour.

These delays have worsened compared to earlier in December and November. At the very start of December for example, about one in nine ambulances were waiting over half an hour.

Part of the reason behind these delays is a lack of available beds. More beds were made available last week than there were over Christmas—around 99,000 across England on any given day between 1 and 7 January. On average, 95% of those beds were occupied. We’re planning to write more about how A&Es fared over the winter period soon.

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