London ambulances will only wait 45 minutes before leaving patients in corridors

The time limit raises questions about where patients will be left and who will tend to them, given hospitals are already overstretched. Credit: PA

An email leaked to ITV News reveals that ambulances in London will only wait for 45 minutes before leaving patients on trolleys in corridors to be looked after by hospital staff.

The decision comes amid growing pressure on the NHS, with paramedics often left waiting for hours outside hospitals before being able to hand over patients to overstretched A&E departments.

With crews then delayed attending new 999 calls, today an email was sent to management at hospitals across London making it clear that ambulances would limit the time they were willing to wait.

The email states: “From January 3rd we are asking that any patients waiting for 45 minutes for handover… 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.”

Palliative care doctor Rachel Clarke said the plan "isn't safe".

She continued in a tweet: "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?"

Lib Dem MP Daisy Cooper added on Twitter: "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."

In July we gained exclusive access to Warrington Hospital, where even at the height of summer patients were having to wait for up to three days on trolleys due to an overcrowded A&E.

ITV News UK Editor Paul Brand explains why the decision has been made by NHS bosses

Until an ambulance crew has officially handed a patient over to a hospital it cannot attend to new calls, leading to severe delays in ambulance response times.

Delays have hit record highs this winter, with thousands of patients every week waiting more than an hour to be handed over by paramedics to hospital staff.

The 45-minute limit in London is intended to ease pressure on the capital’s ambulance service, but raises questions about where patients will be left and who will tend to them, given hospitals are already overstretched.

It is yet another sign of an NHS facing unprecedented pressures.

A spokesperson for the NHS in London said: “The NHS is experiencing record demand for urgent and emergency care.

"We are working across London to speed up ambulance handovers at hospitals- where it is clinically safe to do so - so ambulance crews can get to more people who are unwell in the community.

“This is one of many ways we are strengthening the NHS response this winter, along with more beds, extra 111 and 999 call handlers, more ambulance clinicians and expanding the use of 24/7 control centres across the capital for urgent and emergency care."

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