A&E delays ‘putting lives at risk’

Ambulances outside Wigan accident and emergency department
Ambulances outside Wigan accident and emergency department

Paramedics were forced to spend hours queuing outside Wigan’s A&E department last week in order to discharge their patients.

At points, the queue was so long, ambulances were forced to stop on the road outside Wigan Infirmary, blocking the entrance to the hospital during the middle of the week.

What a sight met my eyes, ambulances everywhere and I mean everywhere, even down the drive. Inside was utter chaos

Janet Erlam

On Thursday, the average turnaround time for ambulances at the hospital was one hour and 15 minutes while one crew was forced to wait for three hours and 57 minutes.

Unison, which represents North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) staff said the inability to discharge patients into hospitals was putting lives at risk.

Jeff Gorman, Branch Secretary for NWAS Unison, said: “On Tuesday and Wednesday last week ambulances were having to park on the road which resulted in the entrance to the hospital being blocked.

“The crux of the delays we have getting to patients who dial 999 is our crews not being able to discharge our patients into hospital care, hence the delays are caused by the hospitals and not the ambulance service.

“Our crews are taking patients to hospital and are then having to continue to care for them for hours at a time on the hospital corridor which means they are not available to respond to the 999 calls that are reported to be waiting a long time for the ambulances to arrive.

“This is something that we as a union are very concerned about as it is putting patients’ lives at risk.

“Every minute that the ambulances are delayed like this means that they are not available to respond to 999 calls.

“It also results in our members becoming extremely stressed while on duty as they are unable to carry out their role responding to patients who need them.”

Of the 77 ambulances that attended Wigan Infirmary on Thursday, 46 left in less than an hour but 13 were waiting between one and two, another 13 between two and three and five between three and four hours.

Janet Erlam witnessed “utter chaos” at the department when her dad collapsed on Wednesday. She said: “What a sight met my eyes, ambulances everywhere and I mean everywhere, even down the drive. Inside was utter chaos.

“The department was overflowing people on trolleys in corridors way down past X Ray. People on chairs waiting, tests being done out of the department. It was hell.

“Our crew had to be relieved by another, apparently the emergency services are so stretched and conditions are so bad that they sometimes are stuck in the department for an entire shift, often well over finishing time when they leave, the morale was low.

“It was utter hell and I mean that, it was scary having my dad at the mercy of this crumbling NHS. This is the truth about the NHS, Wigan Infirmary itself a casualty with over stretched staff. There is more going on than we know and I can honestly say its like Russian Roulette.”