South West hospitals record worst ambulance waiting times in England

Ambulance waits
Ambulances at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital in late December

The hospitals with the worst ambulance waiting times in England are all in the South West.

NHS Trusts operating in Plymouth, Bristol and Weston-super-Mare, Gloucestershire and Torbay and South Devon were the four worst-hit in England for delays of 30 minutes or more.

For delays of an hour or longer, trusts in Cornwall, Plymouth, Torbay and South Devon and Bristol and Weston-super-Mare were worst affected.

Ambulance handover delays at A&E departments in England improved slightly last week, though figures show hospital pressures “remain high”.

A total of 14,961 delays of at least 30 minutes were recorded across all hospital trusts in the seven days to January 16, representing 18% of all arrivals.

This is down from 23% in the previous week, which was the highest level so far this winter.

Some 7% of arrivals last week (5,610) took more than 60 minutes to be handed over to A&E teams, down from 10% in the previous week.

A handover delay does not always mean a patient has waited in the ambulance. They may have been moved into an A&E department, but staff were not available to complete the handover.

Analysis of the NHS England figures show University Hospitals Plymouth - which runs the biggest hospital in the South West at Derriford - reported the highest proportion of ambulance handovers that were delayed by at least 30 minutes last week (58%).

Derriford Hospital is the worst trust in England for handover delays

They were followed by University Hospitals Bristol & Weston (53%), Gloucestershire Hospitals (51%) and Torbay & South Devon (49%).

Royal Cornwall Hospitals topped the list for the proportion of arrivals that were delayed by more than an hour (41%), followed by University Hospitals Plymouth (39%), Torbay & South Devon (35%) and University Hospitals Bristol & Weston (34%).

Hospital pressures in England “remain high”, with staff facing a growing number of routine checks as well as ambulance arrivals, NHS England said.

More than 93% of general & acute beds were occupied last week, the equivalent of nearly 500 more adult patients per day than the previous week.

Staff absences due to Covid-19 have fallen week-on-week in every region, though most areas are still reporting higher numbers than at the start of December.

A spokesperson for the South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) said: “We’re sorry that some patients are having to wait longer for an ambulance as a result of health and social care being under severe pressure.

“The most significant impact is the length of time it’s taking us to hand over patients into already busy hospitals. It’s an absolute priority for us and for our NHS partners to reduce these delays, so crews can get back out on the road for other patients. 

“Our people are working incredibly hard day and night to enable us to be there for our patients, while prioritising those who are most seriously injured and ill.

“We are calling on the public to help us and the wider NHS by only calling the 999 ambulance service in a critical or life-threatening situation.”

It is not the first time in recent months the region has recorded the worst ambulance handover delays in the country. The service previously told ITV News it is under "the most sustained period of pressure in its history".

South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust has apologised for the delays people are facing. Credit: PA

Ambulance waits by acute NHS trust in the West Country

  • Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Total patients arriving by ambulance: 748

Minimum 30 minute wait: 380 (50.80%)

> 60min wait: 221 (29.50%)

  • Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Total patients arriving by ambulance: 405

Minimum 30 minute wait: 70 (17.3%)

> 60min wait: 26 (6.40%)

  • North Bristol NHS Trust

Total patients arriving by ambulance: 598

Minimum 30 minute wait: 178 (29.80%)

> 60min wait: 84 (14%)

  • Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust

Total patients arriving by ambulance: 302

Minimum 30 minute wait: 47 (15.60%)

> 60min wait: 5 (1.70%)

  • Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust

Total patients arriving by ambulance: 492

Minimum 30 minute wait: 215 (43.70%)

> 60min wait: 200 (40.70%)

  • Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust

Total patients arriving by ambulance: 661

Minimum 30 minute wait: 20 (3%)

> 60min wait: 0

  • Royal United Hospitals Bath NHS Foundation Trust

Total patients arriving by ambulance: 490

Minimum 30 minute wait: 118 (24%)

> 60min wait: 52 (10.6%)

  • Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust

Total patients arriving by ambulance: 241

Minimum 30 minute wait: 5 (2.10%)

> 60min wait: 1 (0.4%)

  • Somerset NHS Foundation Trust

Total patients arriving by ambulance: 508

Minimum 30 minute wait: 47 (9.30%)

> 60min wait: 7 (1.40%)

  • Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust

Total patients arriving by ambulance: 392

Minimum 30 minute wait: 193 (49%)

> 60min wait: 137 (35%)

  • University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust

Total patients arriving by ambulance: 715

Minimum 30 minute wait: 380 (53%)

> 60min wait: 246 (34%)

  • University Hospitals Dorset NHS Foundation Trust

Total patients arriving by ambulance: 864

Minimum 30 minute wait: 244 (28%)

> 60min wait: 151 (17.5%)

  • University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust

Total patients arriving by ambulance: 590

Minimum 30 minute wait: 341 (57.8%)

> 60min wait: 229 (38.8%)

  • Yeovil District Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

Total patients arriving by ambulance: 336

Minimum 30 minute wait: 39 (11.6%)

> 60min wait: 6 (1.8%)