Stroke victims wait 51 minutes for an ambulance as unions warn of ‘collapsing’ NHS


The average wait time for an ambulance after calling 999 to report a stroke, chest pain and other serious medical conditions has tripled in the past two years and is more than half an hour longer than the target time

An ambulance responding to a call in London
Paramedics have reported intense pressure and understaffing

Ambulance wait times for people with stroke, chest pain and other emergencies have tripled in less than two years.

New figures from the GMB union show that average callouts for Category 2 calls were under 17 minutes in July 2020.

In 2021 they reached 22 minutes. But in April of this year they were 51 MINUTES – if the target time is 18.

A chief of one of the country’s main ambulance trusts fears the delays are so crippling that his service will collapse in mid-August.

Another paramedic blames the number of calls to 999 from concerned people who can’t see their GP.

And the GMB is warning that a “perfect storm” of government cuts and paramedics leaving the service has pushed the service to the breaking point.

GMB National Officer Rachel Harrison said: “The longer wait times are being caused by an explosion in demand as essential services have been cut drastically since 2010.

“Ambulance workers have faced cuts for more than a decade while demand has nearly doubled. No wonder they are leaving in droves while the service itself is on the brink of collapse.”

GMB National Officer Rachel Harrison, who commented on ambulance wait times

She said the crisis — longer waits, shortages in staff and more calls — was the “worst” ambulance trusts across the country had ever experienced.

According to GMB analysis, calls have almost doubled since 2010, with 14 million registered last year compared to 7.9 million in 2009-10.

That’s a jump of 77% – but headcount has only increased by 7% over that time.

This year, crews respond to Category 1 calls – for life-threatening conditions such as cardiac or respiratory arrest – in an average of nine minutes. The national target is seven minutes.

Category 2 calls are serious but not immediately life threatening, including chest pain or stroke symptoms.

Many paramedics leave the service for other jobs


(Getty Images)

Ms Harrison said paramedics experienced “incredible stress and even abuse” while tending to patients.

Around 2,685 paramedics have given up their jobs in the last two years. Of these, only 400 were due to retirement.

Of 315 exit interviews conducted, most blamed a desire for a better work-life balance for their exit, Ms Harrison said. She added: “Only half of retirees were actually of retirement age. It’s a very common thing across the country, people don’t make it to retirement age. They choose to leave at an earlier age to get less stressful jobs in the community.”

Ms Harrison said paramedics would work in GP surgeries and as university lecturers, which paid the same but did not include nights and weekends. Services in the Midlands, North East and Yorkshire and South East have seen the highest increase in demand over the last four years with a typical 25% increase in calls.

Sir Keir Starmer urged Boris Johnson to address the issues during a vocal PMQ on Wednesday. The Labor leader insisted: “People deserve better than a flawed and inadequate government which is utterly incapable of improving our NHS.”

Mr Starmer spoke about Akshay Patel, 28, whose mother died of a heart attack before an ambulance arrived 57 minutes after the 911 call was received.

Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer says the Tories are unable to improve the NHS



The Prime Minister replied: “I think everyone in the House has sympathy for Akshay and the other constituents and their families.

“I share her feelings but if we look at what the Government is doing I have to say we are making colossal investments in our NHS.”

West Midlands Ambulance Service director of care Mark Docherty said patients were dying “every day” from preventable causes caused by ambulance delays.

Fearing the worst for his local ministry, he adds: “Around August 17th is the day I think everything will fall apart. I was asked how
I can be so precise, but by that date, a third of our resources will be lost to delays, and that means we just can’t respond. Mathematically, it becomes a bit like a Titanic moment.”

Paramedic Paul Turner saying trouble seeing a GP is leading more people to call 999


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Paul Turner, a paramedic with the North West Ambulance Service, highlighted a number of departures on his patch. He said: “In one ambulance station alone, 10 staff have left in the last 6-12 months. This station usually has 70 employees.”

Paul, a paramedic for 20 years, attributed the surge in calls to the fact that people are unable to see a GP. He added: “Some calls don’t require an ambulance. People have trouble getting into general practitioners. The public call, because if you call 111 you could be in a queue. If they feel they need to be seen, the only alternative is 999.”

A paramedic who has worked at the West Midlands Ambulance Service for 14 years added that other services in the country could collapse.

He said: “Staff feel hopeless. The hopelessness of the situation is constant, every day.

“Our employees are so devastated it’s difficult to know how they’re going to get through this.

“It’s a desperate situation. From one perspective, we’ve already broken down.

The stitches have already unraveled at the seams and the NHS has already unraveled nationwide.”

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