NHS crisis: Damning figures show ambulance diverts have doubled in a week, thousands are waiting in parking bays outside A&E and 19 out of 20 hospital beds are full
- A total of 38 ambulances were last week turned away from overloaded A&Es
- Some 12.5 per cent of 999 patients were kept waiting for 30 minutes or more
- 94.7 per cent of hospital beds are full, higher than the ‘safe’ target of 85 per cent
- Labour says the NHS is under ‘considerable strain’ because of under-funding
The number of ambulances turned away from A&E soared last week to its highest level since winter began.
Accident and emergency performance figures this week show the NHS is feeling the strain as snow falls across Britain.
More than one in eight people taken to A&E in an ambulance waited outside for half an hour or more because hospitals are too overloaded to cope.
And 19 out of 20 hospital beds in the entire country are full – 10 per cent higher than the ‘safe operating level’ and the busiest they have been all winter.
NHS performance figures for last week have revealed more ambulances are being turned away from hectic A&E departments, fewer hospital beds are available for new patients, and growing numbers of 999 patients face long waits in ambulance bays outside (stock image)
Weekly statistics for January 7 to January 13 show that, despite hospitals managing the crisis better than last year, they are still cracking under the pressures of winter.
Ambulances were turned away from hospitals 38 times last week – up from just 17 the week before and a 500 per cent increase from just six in the same week last year.
Only two weeks in 2017/18 – dubbed the ‘worst winter ever’ for the NHS – had more diversions.
And once they arrived at A&E, 12,326 patients had to wait 30 minutes or more before they could be taken inside. 2,769 of them waited more than an hour.
The percentage of people waiting in the back of an ambulance for half an hour or more is at its highest since figures began in early December – 12.5 per cent.
Waiting times rising as the total number of patients arriving by ambulances falls – last week was the lowest since December 16 – suggests hospitals are clogged up.
Either bed shortages are slowing down the processing of patients, people are taking longer to treat or more people are taking themselves to A&E.
The Labour Party’s Shadow Health Secretary, Jonathan Ashworth said: ‘This is an NHS which remains under considerable strain this winter after years of Tory underfunding, chronic staff shortages and wider health and social care cuts.
‘While the Tory Government is left reeling and distracted from its Brexit shambles, patients are paying the price.’
Only one in 20 beds – 5.3 per cent – in NHS hospitals are free for new patients. The NHS itself says this figure should be 15 per cent or more for hospitals to be safe.
But last week’s figure is nearing the highs of 95.2 per cent seen in last year’s crisis.
And just five hospital trusts last week managed to keep their occupancy level below the 85 per cent target.
One trust – Weston Area Health Trust, which runs the General Hospital in Weston-super-Mare – was 100 per cent full all week.
An NHS spokesperson said: ‘NHS staff continue to pull out all the stops with flu and norovirus cases continuing to rise as expected in January.
‘Thanks to closer working between hospitals, local health groups and councils, fewer people are spending long periods in hospital compared with this time last year.
‘With temperatures set to drop, it’s more important than ever that people help doctors, nurses, paramedics and other frontline staff provide care to the most seriously ill, by getting the free flu jab if you’re eligible, and by using the NHS 111 service as the first port of call for non-emergencies.’
|WEEK DATES||A&E AMBULANCE DIVERSIONS||NATIONAL BED %||HOSPITALS 100% FULL ON AT LEAST ONE NIGHT||HOSPITALS COMPLETELY FULL ALL WEEK||AMBULANCE WAITS 30-60 MINS||AMBULANCE WAITS 60+ MINS|