At least 68 dead since April due to emergency wait times, West Midlands Ambulance Service says

An ambulance service in the Midlands has told ITV News Central that 68 people have died since April - as a result of ambulance delays.

Figures by West Midlands Ambulance Service, seen by ITV News Central, show that people are waiting up to 17 hours for an ambulance.

The problems are caused by ambulance crews having to wait to hand over their patients at A&Es.

Ambulances waiting to hand over patients can't be sent to other incidents where people could be in a life-threatening condition, as a result, people have not received the vital care they need to survive.

A hospital chief executive told ITV News Central there are three reasons why this is happening - there are more people who are ill coming into hospital and staying longer - possibly because conditions got worse through lockdown, there's a shortage of staff in hospitals and in social care in the community.

Meanwhile, Murry MacGregor, a spokesperson for West Midlands Ambulance Service, told ITV News Central the strains on the health and social care system are causing a domino effect of problems.

He said hospitals aren't able to discharge patients quick enough which is causing patients to stay in A&E for longer, which means ambulances are having to wait outside with patients before handing them over.

17 ambulances could be seen waiting outside Royal Stoke Hospital at one time Credit: ITV News Central

Mr MacGregor also said the number of patients being taken into A&E departments is much lower than the number of people they were taking in five years ago - that's because the ambulance service working with specialist units to bring patients directly to the unit they need, which has relieved some, but not enough, pressure on accident and emergency departments.

In June, new figures revealed ambulance response times have significantly worsened as the NHS faces "huge pressure" across the country.

It revealed ambulances took an average of 51 minutes and 38 seconds to respond to emergency calls such as heart attacks and strokes.

John Williams told ITV News Central he waited more than five hours for an ambulance after suffering a heart attack

Mr Williams said: "With a myocardial infarction [tissue death due to inadequate blood supply] time is a factor, so the quicker you can get to hospital and have the operation done, the less damage is done to your heart."

"What I don't know is how much additional damage has been caused by the fact it was seven hours before the symptoms coming on and me actually getting to hospital."

He said: "When they found out how long I'd been waiting they were absolutely furious they had not been called in sooner.

"I mean obviously I don't know what they were doing earlier on in the day, they just go from one job to the next, but when they found out how long it had taken, they really weren't happy at all, either of them."

In a statement, West Midlands Ambulance Service said: "The length of time taken to respond to you is deeply upsetting and is not the level of service the trust wants to deliver."

"However, the volume of hospital handover delays currently being experienced everyday across the region means that the trust is unable to respond to the patients in a timely manner because the crews are delayed in handing over care of their patients to the staff at the hospitals."