More than 20 ambulances queue outside of Torbay A&E amid huge number of attendances

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More than 20 ambulances pictured queueing outside of a Devon A&E has highlighted the incredible pressure local NHS services are under.

The image - taken by a concerned member of staff - shows nose to tail ambulances at Torbay Hospital A&E on 23 May.

It has attracted thousands of comments on social media.

Taking to Twitter, emergency care assistant Jacob Stocker praised staff at the hospital who have been working tirelessly to help people.

Hospital bosses in Devon have apologised to patients forced to endure lengthy waits in emergency departments on one of their busiest days of the year so far.

Shane Clark, Unison South West representative, said the problem is all caused by blockages in the system.

"Unfortunately this is something we're seeing on a daily basis, and there are a number of hospitals which seem worse than others," he said.

"We mustn't forget every single one of those ambulances will have a patient on the back, Unfortunately if people can't be released into the community from those acute hospitals, that inevitably blocks up those wards and means there's no space, when our ambulances arrive there's no capacity.

"That's how we end up seeing those pictures like we did at Torbay Hospital yesterday where there's over 20 ambulances, all with patients on the back of them.'

Ambulance crews are enduring long waits outside hospitals.

John Harrison, chief operating officer for Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We experienced a very busy day in our Emergency Department at Torbay Hospital yesterday (23 May) with one of the highest number of attendances we have seen so far this year. We had many people self-presenting alongside a high number of ambulance arrivals.

“A high level of demand impacts our ability to admit patients in a timely way, as this has a knock-on effect on the flow of patients through our hospital. Our dedicated staff are working extremely hard to care for people who need our services.

Some ambulance crews say they are pushed to breaking point. Credit: ITV News

“All patients who arrive at our Emergency Department are triaged and assessed, with the most clinically urgent being prioritised. We would like to offer our sincere apologies to anyone who experienced a long wait for treatment, and thank those who have been waiting for the kindness and understanding they are showing to our staff."

He urged everyone to think about other services to fit needs before attending A&E, such as using the NHS 111 service or going to minor injuries.

The ambulances outside A&E Credit: Concerned staff member

To ensure ambulances are available to attend the next emergency call, emergency departments should normally accept patients who arrive by ambulance within 15 minutes.

When this doesn't happen, it is known as a handover delay and the patient’s care remains with the ambulance service until they can be admitted.

A spokesperson for the South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) said: “Due to the whole health and social care system being under sustained pressure, patients are having to wait longer for an ambulance than they would expect.

“Our performance has not returned to pre-pandemic levels, due partly to handover delays, and sometimes it’s taking us too long to get an ambulance to patients.

“We are working with our partners to ensure our crews can get back out on the road as quickly as possible, to respond to other 999 calls. 

“We would encourage people who have family and friends who are medically fit to leave hospital to support them where they are able to do so, and as ever, if you need emergency care please call 999 or use 111 online for other medical support.”