Heart attack patients waiting 12 times longer for an ambulance than they should

Waiting times for ambulances for heart attacks and strokes were much higher than the targets in December
Waiting times for ambulances for heart attacks and strokes were much higher than the targets in December

Nearly 3,500 people across the South West waited longer than six and a half hours after calling an ambulance in an emergency such as a heart attack or a stroke in December last year

Official figures for ambulance response times across England for the month show the South West's slowest responses to 'category 2 emergencies', "serious conditions" which require "urgent assessment and rapid transportation", had the longest wait for the worst 10 per cent of responses.

The 90th percentile figure was 6 hours and 39 minutes, meaning that 10 per cent of all callers in category two - 3,481 people - had to wait that long or even longer.

The next worse 90th percentile waiting time in England was the five hour and 23 minute wait for East Midlands ambulance service – an hour and 16 minutes quicker.

Most other ambulance services 90th centile time were no longer than four hours.

But for category 2 emergencies, such as heart attacks and strokes, the government set target is for 90 per cent of calls to be answers in 40 minutes, essentially six hours quicker than South West Ambulance service’s performance in December.

The average wait is meant to be 18 minutes, while in reality in December in the South West it was two hours and 39 minutes – more than 12 times longer.

Waiting times for “urgent” cases - for conditions such as late stages of labour, non-severe burns, and diabetic attacks - also reached record highs in December.

A spokesperson for the South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust said: "Our ambulance clinicians strive every day to deliver their best care for patients, but our performance has not returned to pre-pandemic levels, partly due to handover delays at emergency departments.

“Health and social care services are under enormous pressure.

"We are working with our partners in the NHS and social care, to do all we can to improve the service that patients receive.”

Health Secretary Steve Barclay has previously said fixing ambulance waiting times, which are often ascribed to difficulties in discharging hospital patients needing social care, was “not just my number one priority but a wider priority as well".

The Labour shadow minister for health Wes Streeting, who visited Swindon and GWH  late last year, said: “Patients can no longer rely on the NHS being there for them in an emergency. That is the terrifying reality.

“Labour will train 7,500 more doctors and 10,000 more nurses and midwives every year, paid for by abolishing the non-dom tax status. Patients need doctors and nurses more than the wealthiest need a tax break.”