London ambulances will only wait 45 minutes before leaving patients at A&E

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The London Ambulance Service has said it will only spend 45 minutes handing patients over to A&E departments as it pushes to get ambulances back on the road for 999 calls.

Ambulance trusts across the country are struggling to respond to emergency calls on time, with delays handing patients to A&E playing a major role.

The NHS Standard Contract for 2021/22 sets a target that “all hand-overs between ambulance and A&E must take place within 15 minutes with none waiting more than 30 minutes”.

However, immense pressure across the NHS means people can wait far longer due to the number of patients arriving at A&E outstripping a hospital’s capacity.

In a leaked email from the London Ambulance Service to hospital managers in London, as seen by ITV, it says: “From January 3rd we are asking that any patients waiting for 45 minutes for hand-over… are handed over immediately to ED (emergency department) staff allowing the ambulance clinicians to leave and respond to the next patient waiting in the community.

“If the patient is clinically stable the ambulance clinicians will ensure the patient is on a hospital trolley or wheelchair/chair and approach the nurse in charge of the emergency department to notify them that the patient is being left in the care of the hospital and hand over the patient.”

The email said that if the patient is not clinically stable, ambulance crews will stay with the patient until hand-over is achieved, but added that the clinical responsibility for the patient lies with the hospital.

The email said the current “operational challenges” in the NHS are “very significant” and “this is a difficult time for everyone”.

‘This isn’t safe. This isn’t a solution’

Rachel Clarke, an NHS palliative care doctor, said on Twitter that the plan was unsafe.

“This isn’t safe. This isn’t a solution. There aren’t the ED beds, the ED doctors, the ED nurses, the ED spaces. Or is the proposal here merely to pile up more patients in ED corridors?,” she wrote. 

Daisy Cooper, the Liberal Democrat health spokeswoman, said: “This move shows the shocking reality of the NHS crisis and is yet further proof that a major incident must now be declared across London.

“The Health Secretary must act now to save the capital’s hospitals from being overwhelmed.

“Corridors and waiting rooms are already full with patients coping with severe pain. The Government cannot wait any longer to act.”

She added: “London’s NHS is collapsing before our eyes. Ministers have spent months arrogantly dismissing or ignoring all warnings from senior health leaders and MPs.

“This is now a life-and-death situation for Londoners. The Government needs to recall Parliament immediately, declare a major incident and above all else, pass a plan to get the country out of this health crisis before more people die.”

NHS figures show that 37 per cent of hand-overs in the week to Christmas Day were delayed by at least 30 minutes, down from 41 per cent the previous week, but much higher than the 13 per cent recorded at that point in 2021 and 11 per cent in 2020.