By Yuri Prasad
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2807

Major ambulance service ‘will entirely collapse in August’

NHS boss adds that patients are 'dying every day' from avoidable causes because of ambulance delays.
Issue 2807
Two West Midlands ambulance service vehicles

The West Midlands Ambulance Service is under terrifying pressure (Pic: WMAS)

A director of one of Britain’s biggest ambulance trusts says it will entirely collapse this summer unless health bosses take urgent action. Mark Docherty, the nursing director of West Midlands Ambulance Service, says patients are “dying every day” from avoidable causes because of ambulance delays.

He revealed to the Health Service Journal, that handover delays at the region’s hospitals were the worst ever recorded, and that an increasing number of patients were waiting in the back of ambulances for 24 hours or more. So far, West Midlands Ambulances Service has recorded more than 100 serious incidents that relate to patient deaths where ambulances have been unable to respond in time.

Docherty said the situation was now so serious that he predicts his service will collapse in August. “Around 17 August is the day I think it will all fail,” he says. “I’ve been asked how I can be so specific, but that date is when a third of our resource will be lost to delays, and that will mean we just can’t respond.

“Mathematically it will be a bit like a Titanic moment. It will be a mathematical certainty that this thing is sinking, and it will be pretty much beyond the tipping point by then.”

He insists there needs to be a focus on discharging hospital patients who are fit to leave in order to free up beds for those arriving by ambulances. However, that problem is becoming ever more difficult to solve as social care faces its own collapse.

A huge shortage of care workers means that many patients who should be discharged and sent home with a care package cannot leave hospital.

Almost 170,000 hours a week of homecare could not be delivered in the first three months of 2022, according to the latest report from the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (Adass). The first three months of the year saw a 671 percent increase in unmet hours compared to spring 2021.

That not only means thousands of people are left languishing in hospital when they could be at home, but also that people not in hospital but in desperate need of care are going without.

The number of people waiting for assessments, reviews, and care support to begin as of February 2022 was 506,131. It’s a big increase from the 294,353 people reported in September 2021.

Adass says, “This means that people will be waiting without support and relying on unpaid and family carers.

“Others will not be living a decent life and are likely to be deteriorating—becoming dehydrated or malnourished or falling, for example. A proportion will need admission to hospital or will see their health and wellbeing deteriorate significantly.”

Boris Johnson’s government came to power claiming it would “fix” social care. It has done nothing of the kind. Now the ripples from that crisis are engulfing ever-wider parts of the NHS and causing them to fail.

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