London: Ambulances wait just 45 minutes at A&E with patients


The leaked email underscores the significant pressure the NHS is under (Image: EPA)

The London Ambulance Service will wait just 45 minutes before handing patients over to A&E, it has been announced.

An email leaked to ITV News shows plans to address late handovers and ensure ambulances are back on the roads for 999 calls.

Other ambulance trusts across the country are struggling to process 911 calls, with delays in getting patients admitted to the ER playing a major role.

The NHS standard contract for 2021-2022 sets the target that “all transfers between ambulances and the emergency department must be made within 15 minutes, with no waiting time exceeding 30 minutes”.

However, the immense pressure on the NHS means patients are increasingly being stuck in ambulances for hours.

A mismatch between a hospital’s capacity and the number of patients coming into the emergency room are some of the problems.

The leaked email, said to be from NHS England’s Emergency and Emergency Care Head for London and sent to hospital managers, said: “From 3 January we are asking that all patients who are up 45 minutes waiting for transfer to be immediately transferred to ED (Emergency Room) staff who will allow Ambulance Physicians to exit and attend to the next patient waiting in the community.

“When the patient is clinically stable, the ambulance physicians will ensure the patient is in a hospital cart or wheelchair/chair and will contact the emergency room nurse to inform them that the patient is in the care of the ambulance hospital and the handover remains the patient.’


The leaked email (Image: ITV News)

The email said if the patient is not clinically stable, rescue teams will remain until handover – but the responsibility lies with the hospital.

It said the current “operational challenges” in the NHS are “very significant” and “this is a difficult time for everyone”.

NHS figures show 37% of deliveries in the week leading up to Christmas Day were delayed by at least 30 minutes, up from 41% the previous week but higher than the 13% recorded at that point in 2021 and 11% in 2020.

NHS palliative care worker Rachel Clarke said on Twitter the plan was unsafe.

She wrote: “It’s not safe. That is no solution. There aren’t the ER beds, the ER doctors, the ER nurses, the ER rooms. Or is the suggestion here just to stack more patients in ED corridors?’

Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Daisy Cooper said: “This move shows the shocking reality of the NHS crisis and is further evidence that a major incident across London now needs to be reported.

“The Minister of Health must act now to prevent the capital’s hospitals from being overwhelmed.

“Corridors and waiting rooms are already full of patients struggling with severe pain. The government cannot wait any longer to act.

“London’s NHS is collapsing before our eyes. Ministers have spent months arrogantly dismissing or ignoring all warnings from senior health leaders and MPs.

“This is now a life and death situation for Londoners. The government must immediately recall Parliament, declare a serious incident and, most importantly, pass a plan to get the country out of this health crisis before more people die.

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Justin Scacco

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