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A day with the paramedics on the frontline of the UK’s ambulance crisis – podcast

If you dial 999, you might expect an ambulance to come in minutes – but in reality, the pandemic has pushed an already creaking service to its limits. This is the story of one shift, and how the people charged with saving our lives are navigating a system on the brink of collapse Winter is always a difficult time for the NHS – but this year, the knock-on effects of the pandemic mean that the limits on its capacity may be dangerously exposed. New figures published on Thursday revealed that a record 5.8 million people are waiting for hospital treatment, and that the proportion of A&E patients seen within the NHS’s target of four hours was the lowest since the current records began in January 2010. Meanwhile, occupancy of wards has already hit its expected winter peak. Nowhere are these problems more obvious than in the ambulance service. A shortage of beds for arriving patients means that paramedics who once completed seven or eight jobs on a shift are now forced to wait in queues outside A&E units, “babysitting” their charges instead of moving on to new cases who sometimes wait for hours before they hear the siren that signals help is at hand. The most urgent calls now wait an average of nearly 54 minutes – up from 45 minutes in September. For less urgent calls, the average is upwards of three hours – and it can be much longer. The College of Paramedics has called the situation “unacceptable”, saying “patients are waiting too long and that is putting them at risk”. Continue reading...

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