Ambulance handover delays worst since first week of 2018 as NHS pressures continue

Handover delays for patients arriving at hospital by ambulance rose last week to the highest point since the start of 2018, official data show.

A total of 13,302 patients waited more than half an hour to be handed over to hospital staff in the week to 18 February, while 2,948 waited more than an hour. Waits over half an hour were up 24% from the previous week, while waits of more than an hour were up 32%.

The figures reveal that pressure on hospitals is far from over despite the end of the national freeze on elective care that was in place through January, and in spite of evidence that flu levels are starting to ease.

Hospitals remain well above the target level of 85% bed occupancy considered safe, with 95% of hospitals beds occupied on average across England over the past week. Bed occupancy rates have now been at around 95% for six weeks in a row - with hospitals regularly completely full.

The latest data on ambulance delays come just days after GPonline revealed that one in four GPs had seen specific cases in which patients had come to harm due to winter pressure on the health service.

Three out of four partners said their practice had struggled to cope this winter as high levels of flu and other seasonal illness added to pressure from the cancellation of elective care, on top of existing heavy workload.

A total of 289,900 calls to NHS111 were made in the week to 18 February, up slightly from the week before, and up 17% from the same week last year.

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