Cornwall paramedic sees just one patient in 14 hours as experts warn NHS is 'creaking'

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Paramedics have spoken out about their frustrations. Credit: Faye Shepherd/Twitter

A paramedic in Cornwall says she was only able to see one patient during a 14-hour shift last night because of delays finding hospital beds.

As pressure on the health service continues, front line staff are speaking out about their frustration - with some even saying people are dying while they wait for ambulances.

Early on Tuesday morning (16 November), paramedic Faye Shepherd posted on Twitter to say she only saw a single patient on Monday night "because we were stuck at hospital for the entire duration, waiting for bed space."She added: "Meanwhile, people are dying waiting for ambulances."

Last week a report found ambulance response times in the South West are the longest in the entire country.

South Western Ambulance Service responded to 8,978 incidents across Cornwall during October - up by 274 compared to the same time last year.

Mario Dunn, CEO of Healthwatch Cornwall, said: "The NHS in Cornwall is really creaking on its legs. We've seen a massive queue of ambulances at any one time outside the Royal Cornwall Hospital, and it's really shocking that an ambulance driver themselves has to send a tweet out calling for help. It's in a bad way.

"Winter pressure will come soon with the cold weather, there will be more people seeking emergency care or hospital care, it's looking like it will be quite grim."

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “We are committed to supporting ambulance crews who work tirelessly responding to emergencies every day.

"NHS England and Improvement has given ambulance trusts an extra £55million to boost staff numbers for winter, helping them to bolster capacity in control rooms and on the frontline.

“We are supporting the NHS to meet the unprecedented pressures it is facing, with record investment this year including an extra £5.4 billion over the next six months to support its response to COVID-19 and £36 billion for health and care over the next three years.”

The ambulance service has said handover times at hospitals are much longer than they have ever been before, which leads to a delay in response times.

Healthwatch Cornwall says the county's NHS is 'creaking on its knees'. Credit: ITV News

A spokesman for South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust said: “We continue to experience the highest-ever level of sustained demand on our service.

"Our response times are directly affected by the time it takes us to handover patients into busy hospital emergency departments, which is longer than we have ever seen before.

“We are losing many more hours compared with recent years which causes our ambulances to queue outside hospitals and unable to respond to other patients and has an inevitable impact on the service we can provide. This is a health system problem which therefore demands a system solution.

“It is an absolute priority for us and our NHS partners to reduce these delays, so we can be there for our patients, while prioritising those who are most seriously injured and ill.

 “Patients who need urgent medical help or advice are encouraged to visit or to call 111, which is free and available 24/7. This will ensure they get the right care, and the ambulance service can focus on those most in need.

 “For ongoing or non-urgent medical concerns or if they need medicines, people should contact their local GP surgery or a local pharmacy.”

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