According to Labour party research, last year an estimated 300,000 ambulances were left queuing outside hospitals with patients waiting to be seen in A&E. The longest recorded delay was more than eight hours, despite the 15-minute nationally agreed standard.
Labour obtained data from all ambulance trusts in England under the Freedom of Information Act. It was found that 279,207 ambulances were delayed for more than half an hour and a further 30,601 for over an hour.
Figures revealed that the longest single wait was eight hours 11 minutes. National guidelines say the handover process should take no longer than 15 minutes. However, in every ambulance trust in the country some patients waited in an ambulance for more than an hour.
Handover delays are caused when emergency departments are too busy to safely accept new patients. Long delays can hold up hospital care and may prevent ambulances from being available for other urgent calls.
A Department of Health spokesperson said: “Long handovers are completely unacceptable. We are providing extra support, including £28m for ambulances from funds already given to the NHS this year, to keep services sustainable year-round.”
Labour shadow health minister, Jamie Reed said: “Thousands of vulnerable people, many of them elderly and frightened, are being wrongly held in the backs of ambulances because hospitals don’t have the space.”