Former Health minister Norman Lamb, Liberal Democrat Health spokesperson, has hit out after a slew of fresh government health data showed that ambulance waiting times have shot up.
Another report by NHS Improvement showed that more than 60,000 people had to wait for up to 12 hours for a bed in A&E. In a further development, 15% of patients have had to wait over 26 weeks for hospital treatment.
Norman Lamb said: “These are the worst monthly figures since records began for waiting times. More patients than ever spent over four hours in A&E. We even have ‘trolley nurses’ now expressly to deal with often seriously-ill patients not receiving the treatment they need.”
The increase in ambulance waiting times was even more alarming. In December, only 66% of the most serious call outs were achieved within the allowed eight minutes. This was down from 76% in 2012, and well below the government’s own 75% benchmark.
For secondary category emergencies, the fall was even more alarming, from 78% in 2012 to just 59% in December.
Norman Lamb said: “Ambulance delays have been made worse by A&E departments being so over-flowing that ambulances can’t even get critically sick people to hospital.”
Lamb, who led a cross party delegation of MPs to see the Prime Minister last week to set out the crisis facing the NHS, added: “It underlines why it is so vital we have a cross party agreement to guarantee the NHS and social care the long-term funding it desperately needs.
“As many of us warned, the NHS is experiencing a really terrible winter crisis and the government must act.”
In a further sign of a health system in crisis, the number of patients treated within 26 weeks of referral has also plummeted. Over 15% of people are having to wait more than 26 weeks, an 8% increase in four years. Almost 5% of patients have had to wait over 36 weeks for treatment, when four years ago no patients had to.