The number of patients having to wait in an ambulance for more than two hours before being admitted to hospital has rocketed in the last three years, it was revealed.
Last year, 2,816 people taken to A&E departments across the North West were left waiting for at least 120 minutes – up from 276 in 2013/14 and well in excess of the national target of 15 minutes, figures released by the North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) showed.
The longest handover time was seven hours and eight minutes, down from almost 12 hours in 2014/15, but up from five hours in 2013/14.
Eight out of 10 trusts nationally have reported delays, which the Lib Dems – which compiled the figures – say is costing the NHS around £31 million a year.
Health spokesman Norman Lamb said: “This is unsafe care and, unless the government grasps this and does something about it, then we are going to see patients suffer.”
Mr Lamb, who was until last year minister of state for care and support in the coalition government, said the NHS needs more money.
This is unsafe care and, unless the government grasps this and does something about it, then we are going to see patients suffer.
A spokeswoman for NHS England said: “A&E departments do sometimes come under pressure and there are occasions when it is appropriate and best for the patient that their handover is delayed while they are, of course, still receiving care from skilled ambulance staff.”
NWAS blamed the handover delays on a 33 per cent rise in urgent, life-threatening calls in the last year, which show no signs of slowing down.
“This undoubtedly then puts pressure on the hospitals and unfortunately means that ambulance crews are waiting longer to handover patients into their care, and get back out on the road to other emergencies,” a spokesman said.
Rocketing attendance figures at Blackpool Victoria Hospital have seen screens erected so nurses assigned to corridors in A&E can treat patients, It is hoped the move will ease pressure on the department and help reduce the amount of time it takes to handover patients from paramedics to casualty staff, a spokesman said at the time.