There has been a sharp rise in the number of patients facing delays when they arrive at A&E in ambulances in England, figures show.
In the last week of 2017 there were 16,900 waits of over 30 minutes – up by more than 40% on the previous week, NHS England said
Delays happen when A&E staff are not available for paramedics to hand over patients to.
Paramedics are then forced to stay with patients to keep them safe.
Some have to wait in the back of ambulances, although many end up in waiting areas and side rooms before nurses and doctors become available.
One in four of the delays were of more than an hour.
Labour Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth said the figures showed the “shocking scale of the crisis in the NHS” and said ministers should be ashamed.
He said once you add up all the delays since the start of winter it meant there had been over 75,000 patients “left languishing” before A&E staff can see them.
Saffron Cordery, of NHS Providers, which represents hospital managers, said the delays showed the “strain” the system was under.
“Despite planning more meticulously than ever before, the level of demand for services means severe pressures remain,” she said.
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The figures – released by NHS England as part of their weekly winter statistics publication – once again illustrate the pressure the health service is under.
At least 20 hospital trusts have had to declare major incidents this week – about one in eight of the total.
And two ambulance services have declared alerts and have even started asking 999 callers with less serious problems to make their own way to hospital so they can prioritise the most life-threatening calls.
The pressures prompted NHS England to order the cancellation of tens of thousands of non-urgent operations until the end of January in an attempt to ease the pressure on hospitals.
Non-urgent treatments had already been cancelled until mid-January, but NHS England said on Tuesday that would now be extended to the end of the month.
Hospitals have also been given the green light to put patients on mixed wards to help ease the pressure.
The data released by NHS England also showed that a record number of calls were made to NHS 111, the free helpline, which was set up in 2014.
There were 480,000 calls – a 21% rise on the previous week.
Problems have also been reported in other parts of the UK.
The Welsh government said the health service was facing “significant pressure” and the chief executive of the NHS in Wales apologised to patients whose operations had been postponed.
Meanwhile, in Scotland there has been a 20% jump in A&E attendances compared with the previous year, prompting an increase in patients waiting more than four hours, and in Northern Ireland the Antrim Area Hospital has had to bring in St John Ambulance volunteers to help with a surge in demand.
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