The appalling state of the NHS ambulance service was exposed today through a fascinating graphic and interactive tool.
Response times in England fell in December, with 999 crews slower than ever to attend to heart attack and stroke victims. It took paramedics an average of more than 90 million to get on category two calls. The goal is 18 minutes.
But in the hardest-hit parts of the country, such patients had to wait up to six and a half hours for doctors to arrive.
Ambulances were also taking longer than ever to handle the most life-threatening calls, such as cardiac arrests. Across England average response times were almost 11 million compared to the NHS target of 7 million.
MailOnline has now aggregated the NHS data into a handy tool and image so you can see exactly how slow ambulances were in your area. App users can use the tool by clicking here.
Category one: where are ambulance response times the worst?
In December 2022, the national average response time for a Category 1 call – for people with life-threatening illnesses or injuries, such as those in cardiac arrest – was 10 minutes and 57 seconds.
The average Category 1 response times by region were:
Southwestern: 13 minutes, 11 seconds
East England: 11 minutes, 54 seconds
Yorkshire: 11 minutes, 19 seconds
Southeast coast: 11 minutes, 2 seconds
South Central: 10 minutes, 55 seconds
Isle of Wight: 10 minutes, 55 seconds
East Midlands: 10 minutes, 54 seconds
London: 10 minutes, 34 seconds
North West: 9 minutes, 58 seconds
West Midlands: 9 minutes, 14 seconds
Northeast: 8 minutes, 51 seconds
The Southwest recorded the slowest average response times for both Category One and Category Two calls.
Crews took an average of 13m 11s and 2h 29m respectively.
One in 10 category two calls also lasted at least 6 hours 39 minutes in the South West, NHS England’s monthly performance data revealed.
The Isle of Wight came in at the other end of the scale, with an average Category Two reaction time of 39m 45s. Yet this was still double the goal.
Meanwhile, patients in the North East and West Midlands experienced the shortest average waiting times for Category 1 calls, at 8m 51s and 9m 14s respectively.
No area in England met the target response time for category one or two calls.
The figures reflect the whole of December, a month in which NHS paramedics began to strike.
Slow response times are fueled by a range of factors, although transfer delays are one of the biggest problems.
Under NHS targets, ambulance staff arriving at the ED are intended to complete all patient transfers within 15 minutes.
But all hospital trusts are increasingly recording delays in transfers of half an hour or more.
In December, the NHS experienced its worst week ever for ambulance handovers, with a third of patients forced to wait at least half an hour.
Delays can occur due to ER units being overwhelmed by a large number of ambulances at once, and space constraints in hospitals, in part to record numbers of bed blockers.
At present, an average of 14,000 beds are occupied every day by patients who are medically fit enough to be discharged.
The waiting figure for Category 1 ambulances for December is the longest response time ever reported, at 10 meters and 57 seconds.
It is 1 million more than the previous record of 9 meters and 56 seconds set in October 2022.
However, in December, nearly 1.3 million 999 calls were made nationwide – the largest monthly number for 2022.
The monthly data also shows that 999 callers classified as category three — which included suspected broken hips and abdominal pain — lasted an average of 4 hours and 19 minutes, more than double the two-hour target.
The British Heart Foundation’s medical director, Dr Sonya Babu-Narayan, said: ‘Extreme delays in emergency heart and stroke care cannot become a new normal.
A poll shows that Britons have little confidence that ambulances and the NHS will be able to treat them, but it also revealed that more than half of those polled blamed the government for NHS staff strikes.
Armed Forces personnel have been called upon to drive ambulances and replace frontline hospital staff during the NHS ambulance strikes. Pictured are army personnel outside Wellington barracks in London on Wednesday
Up to 25,000 paramedics, call handlers, drivers and technicians joined the picket lines over pay and benefits in succession on Wednesday. Pictured above, workers on the picket lines at London’s main ambulance call center in Newham, east London
It comes as up to 25,000 paramedics, call handlers, drivers and technicians joined picket lines over pay and benefits on Wednesday in a row.
Healthcare strikes are expected to put further pressure on the NHS in the coming weeks, with ambulance staff set to leave again later this month on January 23.
Health Secretary Steve Barclay is said to be considering an accelerated wage increase in an attempt to resolve the dispute, but has so far ruled out any movement in current wages.
But when asked earlier today on the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland if he could secure a one-off increase in health spending, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said “a record amount is already going to the NHS”.
Pictured above, Unison leader Christina McAnea joined paramedics on the picket line outside Longley Ambulance Station in Sheffield on Wednesday. Ambulance personnel will walk out again later this month, on January 23
The GMB union, one of two behind the ambulance strikes, said lives in the NHS are being put at risk ‘every day’ by the current workforce and not just as a result of strike action.
Meanwhile, the Royal College of Nursing will also hold its second phase of strike action next week, lasting two days, after the government “failed to act” after two days of action last month.
The action – the first in the RCN’s 106-year history – saw picket lines at 63 NHS hospital trusts in England, as well as all trusts in Northern Ireland and all but one health board – the Aneurin Bevan – in Wales.
Young doctors could also join the campaign later in the year as the British Medical Association is currently voting its members to strike action.
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