Shocking figures have unveiled not a single local area in the South East is meeting ambulance waiting time targets. 

Following freedom of information requests from the Liberal Democrats, it has been found that a staggering 27 local authorities in the South East have seen a rise in category 1 waiting times of more than 10%, the most serious type of call-out. 

Coastal areas of Eastbourne, Hastings and Worthing have seen a rise in waiting times of more than a fifth for category 1 incidents. The worst is Brighton and Hove with a 28% rise in waiting times. 

17 local authorities saw a rise in average waits for Category 2 rise by 50%, which can include suspected strokes. Eastbourne, Hastings, and Brighton and Hove saw the biggest rises, with average waits going up 76.8%, 81.6%, and 89% respectively.

The NHS target is 18 minutes, with a stroke patient losing 1.9 million brain cells every minute they are untreated and do not have blood flow. 

The Liberal Democrats are calling for an urgent five point plan to support ambulance services this winter. As part of this the party is calling for a long-term strategy to improve social care, free up hospital beds and stop ambulances waiting outside hospitals.

Commenting, Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for Eastbourne and Willingdon, Josh Babarinde said:

“These are heartbreaking figures for communities like my hometown of Eastbourne.

“No one’s chances of getting to hospital in time if they’ve had a heart attack or a stroke should depend on where they happen to live. 

“The healthcare postcode lottery that has worsened under this Government is completely unacceptable and we all deserve so much better. 

“I’m hearing devastating stories of local people being left stranded for hours because of these delays.  Our valiant local NHS services are collapsing under the strain of years of neglect by this Conservative government and this needs to stop.

“Ministers must sort this out now or else we face a health crisis like no other this winter. 

“Providing vital health services that we need in and around seaside towns like mine is being at risk by a Conservative Government that’s asleep at the wheel and takes local people for granted.”

Full data based on Freedom of Information responses to the Liberal Democrats from Ambulance Trusts is available here. Individual FOI responses are available on request. Separate figures for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are also available.

Data was provided for 227 local areas. These local areas were provided either by local authority or CCG areas depending on the ambulance trust. 

Ambulance Crisis – Liberal Democrat 5 Point Winter Plan

  • Launch a campaign to retain, recruit and train paramedics and other ambulance service staff. Like all health and care services, it needs to be properly staffed.
  • Bring forward a fully funded programme to get people who are medically well enough discharged from hospital and set up with appropriate social care and support. This will allow people to leave hospital sooner and make more space available for new arrivals.

The Government’s current attempt at this through the Adult Social Care Discharge Fund is not good enough, as the funds will come from existing NHS budgets putting even more pressure on other services. It will also not be deployed in full until January next year.

  • In addition to getting people out of hospital so that they get care in a more comfortable setting, the number of beds in hospitals needs to be increased to end excessive handover delays for ambulances, caused by a lack of bed capacity. Any new beds must come with increases in staff to care for those extra patients.
  • Expand mental health support services to get people the appropriate care they need and reduce the number of call outs for ambulances for mental health reasons. Learning from hospitals that have set up ‘emergency mental health departments’, will not only to get people more appropriate care but relieve pressure on A&Es and ambulances.
  • Pass Daisy Cooper MP’s Ambulance Waiting Times Bill into law that would require  accessible, localised reports of ambulance response times to be published. This would ensure that ‘hot spots’ with some of the longest waiting times can be identified routinely. 12 hour waits at A&E should also be published from arrival at hospital rather than the ‘decision to admit’ as is current practice, so that the true scale of the problem is clear for all to see.