Ambulance service 'could COLLAPSE' in August and leave 999 callers stranded, boss warns
25th May 2022

AN NHS ambulance service could fail completely this summer without urgent help, bosses warn.

Mark Docherty, nursing chief at West Midlands Ambulance Service, said that by August it will be too busy to respond to 999 calls.

Hospitals are so full that paramedics take hours or even entire days to offload patients and get back on the road.

Mr Docherty told the Health Service Journal patients are dying every day because of delays.

He said: “A third of our resource will be lost to delays and that will mean we just can’t respond. 

“It will be a bit like a Titanic moment. It will be a mathematical certainty that this thing is sinking and it will be pretty much beyond the tipping point by then.”

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NHS figures show ambulance waiting times are some of the longest ever.

It comes as Glasgow MSP Dr Sandesh Gulhane said Scotland’s ambulance service is “at breaking point” with soaring wait times.

In England in March it took an average of one hour and one minute for crews across England to reach patients having a stroke or heart attack.

April statistics show West Midlands ambulances are some of the fastest to urgent calls but among the slowest for less urgent Category 3 or 4 jobs.

At a WMAS board meeting on Wednesday, Mr Docherty said staff were “working their socks off” to try and fix the problem.

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An NHS spokesperson said: “The NHS has been working hard to reduce ambulance delays and £150m of additional funding has been allocated for ambulance service pressures in 2022-23.

“There is no doubt the NHS still faces pressures.

“The latest figures are another reminder of the crucial importance of community and social care in helping people in hospital leave when they are fit to do so, not just because it is better for them but because it helps free up precious NHS bed space.”

Mr Docherty's warning comes after emergency health chiefs warned this month that many people would be better off getting a taxi or a lift to A&E instead of waiting for an ambulance.

Dr Katherine Henderson, of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said: “I would be looking very carefully at what alternatives I had.

“We are seeing an increasing number of patients who are making their own way to hospital.

“Our walk-in queue is no longer patients who have managed to walk in – they may be patients who should have come by ambulance.”

Ambulances saw their busiest April ever for life-or-death calls and more than two million people attended A&E, with 480,000 admitted into hospital.

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A record 24,138 people waited more than 12 hours for a bed on a ward.

Response times improved compared to a rock bottom in March but are still well below targets.

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