London patients face waits of over an hour for ‘emergency’ ambulance, new NHS data shows

An ambulance outside a hospital (Dominic Lipinski/PA) (PA Archive)
An ambulance outside a hospital (Dominic Lipinski/PA) (PA Archive)

London patients with “emergency” conditions are waiting more than an hour for an ambulance, new data shows, as English A&Es also see one of their worst months ever.

Fresh figures released by NHS England on Thursday revealed that ambulances took an average of one hour and one minute to respond to a Category 2 “emergency” call in the capital in July.

These are patients who have conditions like a stroke, severe burns, or sepsis.

The waits are more than three times as long as the target of 18 minutes, and just seconds short of the longest average wait on record, set in March 2020. They are broadly in line with waits across England, where patients faced waits of 59 minutes on average.

The most pressing ‘Category 1’ calls for “life-threatening” cases in London were responded to on average within eight minutes and three seconds, quicker than the English average of nine minutes and 35 seconds.

However, this was still longer than the target of seven minutes.

Speaking on Sky News, Richard Webber of the College of Paramedics, said staffing issues and care home bed shortages were among the causes of concerning waits nationally.

“I sat a weekend or two ago with a patient for three or four hours who was quite unwell,” he said.

“Normally in a 12-hour shift I would see six or eight patients. Now I can see two or three patients so effectively the available ambulances have halved. Why is that? Because I’m sat outside the emergency department.”

A London Ambulance Service spokesperson said: “We are extremely busy at the moment and received up to 7,000 emergency calls a day during July, compared to a pre-pandemic busy day of about 5,500 calls.

“However we are working hard to respond to our sickest and most seriously injured patients as quickly as possible, and we would like to thank our dedicated staff and volunteers for their continued hard work and commitment.

“To help reduce delays and pressures wherever we can, we are working with hospitals and NHS partners across the capital to develop and implement new pathways and to reduce delays to handover, as well as increasing the number of crews on the road and staff in our control rooms.”

Separate data released Thursday showed record numbers of patients who waited more than 12 hours to be admitted to an A&E in England in July, and the lowest proportion of people being seen within four hours.

A record 29,317 people had to wait more than 12 hours in A&E departments in England in July from a decision to admit to actually being admitted. The number of those waiting more than 12 hours from the time of arrival to admission is likely to be higher.

This is up 33% from 22,034 the previous month, and is the highest for any calendar month in records going back to August 2010.

A total of 71% of patients in England were seen within four hours of arriving at A&Es last month, down from 72.1% in June - the worst performance on record.

This was also well below the target that 95% of patients should be admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours. That target has not been met nationally since 2015.