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THE current cold spell has led to a shocking 27 per cent rise in patients stuck in ambulances for over an hour, Labour analysis revealed yesterday.
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth warned ministers to “urgently get a grip” and said the latest figures showed the scale of the crisis facing the NHS.
The NHS Weekly Winter and Monthly Combined Performance statistics released by NHS England revealed that 2,500 patients had been left waiting in an ambulance for more than an hour in just one week.
And the number of ambulances turned away from A&E departments more than doubled over the same period, with 25 vehicles diverted.
The figures show the level of unsafe bed occupancy leading in to the critical winter period at a staggering 94.6 per cent, well above the recommended 85 per cent.
According to the National Audit Office (NAO), hospitals with occupancy above the recommended safe limit will suffer regular bed shortages and an increase in hospital-acquired infections.
Labour’s analysis of the NHS England performance data also reveals a 62 per cent rise in patients waiting longer than 18 weeks for operations in the seven years since the Tories came to power.
Fears are growing of another winter crisis similar to last year’s, which prompted the British Red Cross to declare a “humanitarian crisis” in hospitals.
Accident and emergency services closed their doors to patients a record number of times as they struggled to cope with high demand and people were left to die on trolleys in hospital corridors.
Mr Ashworth said: “Last week’s cold snap demonstrated once again the crisis facing our NHS this winter and government inaction will only make the challenge facing the NHS that much harder.
“Patients will be deeply concerned that, despite the heroic efforts of our brilliant NHS staff, there was a shocking 27 per cent increase in the number of patients stuck for over an hour in the back of an ambulance in just one week.
“Despite the pressures which all front-line NHS staff were warning of, the winter fund announced in the Budget has still not been fully allocated to struggling trusts. Patients expect ministers to urgently get a grip.”
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