A&E delays leave 20,000 patients waiting in ambulances over two week period

More than 20,000 patients have been left waiting in ambulances outside A&Es in the past fortnight, new NHS data shows.

The first winter figures published today revealed delays of at least half an hour as health care ­organisations warned hospitals were already bursting at the seams.

The data is all the more disturbing as it is the first to be released since new standards were introduced dramatically reducing in the number of calls classified as urgent.

The figures from Public Health England reveal that 4,014 people were stuck in ambulances for more than an hour and 50 ambulances were diverted because A&Es were full.

The first winter figures revealed delays of at least half an hour
(Image: E+)

Dr Nick Scriven, of the Society for Acute Medicine, said: “Delays at the front door can be life threatening.”

Hospital trusts report overall bed occupancy at 94.5% – up from 94.3% the previous week and well above the safe standard target of 85%.

Niall Dickson, of the NHS Con­­federation, said: “Services are al­­­­­ready under huge strain, and that’s without a flu outbreak and cold weather.”

The alert comes after the government gave NHS bosses less than half the money they said was needed. A Department of Health spokesman said they had “more robust plans in place than ever to cope with winter”.

50 ambulances were diverted because A&Es were full
(Image: Getty)

But bosses have been accused of covering up how hospitals are strug­­gling after ditching black alerts.

Last winter dozens of trusts issuing warnings, signalling they could not cope, got widespread coverage.

Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “It is entirely ­unacceptable that the true extent of the crisis may not be fully revealed.”

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