One in five ambulance patients in England waited over an hour to be handed over to emergency care teams last week as hospitals continue to struggle with bed shortages and a surge in winter viruses.
The figure is down from nearly one in four the previous week, partly due to industrial action by ambulance workers on Dec. 21.
On the day of the strike, the percentage of patients waiting more than an hour was 14%, or about one in seven, compared to a weekly average of 20%.
But that’s still well above 4% for the equivalent week last year and 3% in 2020.
Ambulance services reported receiving fewer calls than normal during the strike, with some advising the public to only dial 999 if there was a risk to life or if someone was seriously ill or injured.
A total of 37% of handovers last week were delayed by at least 30 minutes, down from 41% the previous week but much higher than the 13% seen at this point in 2021 and 11% in 2020.
NHS trusts aim for 95% of all ambulance handovers to be completed within 30 minutes, with 100% within 60 minutes.
NHS England said hospital capacity “continues to be impacted by delayed discharges”, with 12,313 bed-days filled by patients who were ready to leave.
“Staff have done everything possible to ensure that as many patients as possible can spend Christmas with their loved ones at home,” a spokesperson said, adding that the late discharge figure was the lowest since August.
Hospitals are also facing pressure from a sharp increase in winter viruses, with an average of 3,746 flu patients in beds each day last week, up 79% from 2,088 the previous week.
At this point last December there were only 34 people in the hospital with the flu.
The number of hospital patients in England who tested positive for Covid-19 was 9,459 on 28 December, up 9% from the previous week and the highest total since 24 October.
An average of 182 Covid-19 patients were on mechanically ventilated beds over the past seven days, the highest since the week ending Nov. 4.
Analysis of the latest data from the PA news agency shows that, among trusts that reported at least 500 ambulance arrivals last week, the highest proportion of patients who waited over an hour to be delivered is was 54% at University Hospitals Bristol & Weston (360 of 666 patients).
This was followed by Gloucestershire Hospitals at 53% (317 of 602 patients), University Hospitals of North Midlands at 50% (307 of 619), Mid & South Essex at 46% (406 of 887), North Bristol at 44% ( 237 of 538) and Shrewsbury & Telford also at 44% (224 of 512).
Royal Cornwall Hospitals had 496 ambulance arrivals last week, of which 261 (53%) waited over an hour to be delivered to the emergency room.
A late delivery does not always mean a patient has been waiting in the ambulance.
They may have been temporarily moved into part of an emergency room building until staff were available to complete the delivery.