Dr Katherine Henderson, president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, today admitted she would be ‘worried’ about family members who needed an ambulance being able to access one in a ‘timely way’
A top emergency medic admitted today that she would consider calling a taxi or giving a lift to a loved one who needed to get to the hospital, rather than call an ambulance.
Dr Katherine Henderson, president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said she was ‘worried’ about family members who needed an ambulance being able to access one in a ‘timely way’.
The medic, who is also an emergency consultant at Guy’s and St Thomas’ trust in London, said she would be ‘looking very carefully’ at alternative ways of getting to hospital if a loved one fell ill, including taxis or getting a lift.
It comes amid an ambulance crisis that has seen some patients told to wait 15 hours for paramedics.
NHS England data today showed ambulance waits fell in April compared to March but were still higher than nearly all other months since records began.
Experts said despite the ‘small reductions’ in waiting times, patients are still facing ‘frightening waits’.
And serious safety incidents logged by ambulance trusts in England skyrocketed 77 per cent in the last year compared to before the pandemic, separate data shows.
Ambulance figures for April show waits for paramedics fell compared to March but were higher than nearly all other months since records began. Ambulances took an average of 51 minutes and 22 seconds to respond to category two calls, such as burns, epilepsy and strokes. This is nine minutes and 41 seconds quicker than one month earlier
NHS’s never-ending crisis sends waiting list for ops to ANOTHER high with 6.4MILLION patients now in queue
The number of people in the queue for routine NHS treatment in England has soared to another high and record numbers are facing ‘frightening waits’ in A&E.
As the crisis in the health service deepens, official statistics show one in nine people (6.4million) were waiting for elective operations such as hip and knee replacements and cataracts surgery by March — up from the 6.18m stuck in February.
There are now 306,000 who have been waiting for more than a year for their operation, up 2 per cent, and 16,796 have been seeking treatment for more than two years, down slightly.
Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, has promised to cut one-year-plus waits to zero by 2025, using the 1.25 per cent National Insurance hike that came into effect last month.
Separate data on A&E performance in April shows a record 24,138 people were forced to wait 12 hours or more to be treated, three times longer than the NHS target and the worst figure on record.
Just seven in 10 patients were seen within four hours of arriving at ‘absolutely packed’ emergency departments, a slight recovery from last month, making it the second-lowest rate ever recorded. Medics warned access to urgent care has become a ‘serious issue’.
Ambulance figures for April show 999 waits fell compared to March but were higher than nearly all other months since records began. Experts said the ‘small reductions’ in waiting times mean patients still face ‘frightening waits’.
Health chiefs today pleaded with Britons to get taxis or lifts from people to ease pressures, saying they would be ‘worried’ about loved ones being able to get an ambulance ‘in a timely way’. One mother today told how of how her nine-year-old daughter fractured her skull when she fell off her bike but was told the ambulance wait would be 10 hours — 15-times longer than the 40-minue target.
Asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme whether she would fear for herself or a loved one who had to dial 999, Dr Henderson said: ‘I would be worried whether it would be possible to get an ambulance to them in a timely way.
‘I would be looking very carefully at what alternatives I had but we shouldn’t have to do that.’
Asked whether this included getting a taxi or a lift, she said ‘exactly’.
Dr Henderson said: ‘This is more serious than we’ve ever seen it. We’ve never broken the commitment to get an ambulance to a patient in a timely way.
‘It’s part of the NHS constitution that we will get care to emergency patients without unnecessary delay.
‘And this is the first time in my career, over 20 years as a consultant, when that has become a serious issue.’
She warned ‘an increasing number of patients’ are making their own way to hospital, with the walk-in queue now including ‘patients who should have come by ambulance’.
This makes it difficult to know who is in the queue and how serious their illness is because they have not been assessed by paramedics who ‘are very skilled at helping us prioritise’, forcing doctors to be ‘very, very vigilant’, Dr Henderson said.
She said: ‘We’ve got big queues, we can’t get flow out of our departments. The reason there is this problem, the underlying reason is that emergency departments are absolutely packed.’
Dr Henderson added: ‘We sometimes start the morning with more patients waiting to go up to the ward than cubicles that we have and that’s at the beginning of the day.
‘We can’t then get new patients in because we have no space. We end up with patients in corridors, we end up with patients in any clinical area that we can manage to put them.’
It comes as medics today warned the NHS ambulance crisis has led to a surge in avoidable deaths and injuries — with response times for emergency call-outs at record highs.
Serious safety incidents logged by ambulance trusts in England have skyrocketed 77 per cent in the last year compared to before the pandemic, official figures show.
They are cases in which an error or lack of care resulted in unexpected or avoidable death, or serious harm.
There were 551 serious safety incidents in the 12 months to March 2022, compared to 312 in the year to March 2020.
The most recent data include 201 unintended deaths, more than double the pre-pandemic number.
Health chiefs warned thousands of patients across the country could be let down by the struggling ambulance service, as not all staff report their concerns.
A mother today told how her nine-year-old daughter fractured her skull when she fell off her bike but was told the ambulance wait would be 10 hours.
The case should have been classified as an ‘urgent’ category three case, meaning an ambulance should have arrived within 120 minutes.
Separate NHS ambulance data released today shows paramedics are arriving faster than March, which saw the worst wait times since records began in August 2017, but are still missing targets.
The average category one response time – calls from people with life-threatening illnesses or injuries – was nine minutes and two seconds. This is 33 seconds faster than March.
Ambulances took an average of 51 minutes and 22 seconds to respond to category two calls, such as burns, epilepsy and strokes. This is nine minutes and 41 seconds quicker than one month earlier.
Response times for category three calls – such as late stages of labour, non-severe burns and diabetes – averaged two hours, 38 minutes and 41 seconds. This is 49 minutes and 32 seconds faster than March.
Dr Sarah Scobie, deputy director of research at health charity Nuffield Trust, said there is a ‘very long way to go to return to even pre-pandemic levels’.
And ‘small reductions’ in ambulance response times ‘should also be seen in the context of continuing frightening waits for patients’, she said.