Many hospitals have hundreds of patients who “should be elsewhere”, while people who need beds face 10-hour waits, a paramedic has said.
Richard Webber, a spokesman for the College of Paramedics, has said pressure on the NHS is the worst he has “ever seen”, with elderly patients left waiting as much as 10 hours for treatment.
It comes after more than a dozen NHS trusts and ambulance services declared critical incidents over the festive period, with officials saying rising flu cases and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic have hit the health service.
Mr Webber spoke of waiting five and a half hours in the back of an ambulance with a man in his nineties who had an internal bleed and needed care last week.
He said people have been asked to take family members to hospital in their own cars rather than face 10-hour long waits, while on at least two occasions on Monday there were no ambulances for calls about cardiac arrests.
Mr Webber told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme: “I talked to colleagues who work in acute hospitals and they are full of patients who should be elsewhere, they should be discharged out to care homes or need support in the community.
“There is a lack of staff working in social care and a lack of capacity in social care, many hospitals have 100 or 200 patients who shouldn’t be in the hospital.
“They should be elsewhere being looked after in social care, they can’t be discharged, which means that the patients in the emergency department can’t be admitted to hospital.
“So, the absolute focus for me has to be on getting patients out of hospital who are fit – it just seems to me completely bizarre that we have a patient who has been deemed by a consultant as medically fit to go home or to somewhere else for care is left in a bed, or somebody who’s not medically fit sits outside on an ambulance for eight or 10 hours, waiting to be admitted.
“The real problem is to get patients discharged from hospital and get the system working, and that can only be done by greater investment in social care, and probably better employment, and pay is very, very low in that sector.”