Ambulance crews are getting caught up in a trolley log jam at Lancashire’s overstretched A&E departments, it has been claimed.
Paramedics are struggling to deliver patients to hospital and get back out on the road because emergency staff have nowhere to put them.
A survey by the Labour Party says more than 21,000 patients in the North West had to wait longer than 30 minutes to be handed over to nursing staff last year – when the target transfer time is 15 minutes.
More than 3,500 of those ended up waiting longer than an hour. The longest a patient had to wait in the region was a staggering four hours 45 minutes – tying up an ambulance crew for around half a shift.
“Under David Cameron hospitals are full to bursting and he’s forcing ambulances to queue up at the doors for hours on end,” said shadow health minister Jamie Reed.
“Thousands of vulnerable people, many elderly and frightened, are being held in ambulances as hospitals don’t have space.”
The revelations come at a time when the North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) has been battling to deal with a spike in 999 call-outs.
Crews have been unable to attend some emergencies, leading to claims the service could be approaching meltdown.
In Preston, a car crash victim and two fire casualties had to be taken to hospital by fire engine because ambulances were unable to reach them due to more urgent calls.
The controversy has resulted in extra resources being pumped into the service.
One A&E staff member from a Lancashire hospital said:“As soon as we book patients in the clock starts ticking on another Government target – four hours to be seen by a doctor.
“When we are congested queues are bound to build up.”
NWAS did not comment on Labour’s figures.