DOZENS of ambulance patients waited more than an hour to be handed over to accident and emergency services at the Dudley Trust in the week to December 3, figures show.

Ambulance services across England have improved in the first week of the month this year compared to the same period last year.

However, experts said while there is hope this winter will not be a repeat of the last, it is still unlikely ambulance handovers will get below the 15-minute target.

NHS England figures show 76 patients waited at least an hour in an ambulance when they arrived at The Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust in the week to December 3.

This meant 11 per cent of 669 patients experienced significant delays – a decrease from 16 per cent during the same period in 2022. The figures cover patients for whom the handover time was known.

A further 108 patients (16 per cent) had to wait between 30 and 60 minutes, while 324 (48 per cent) took between 15 and 30 minutes.

Danielle Jefferies, senior analyst at health think tank The King's Fund, said: “The combination of tight budgets, rising Covid-19 and flu cases, and industrial action, make it unlikely that ambulance handovers will get below the 15-minute target this winter.

“The Government needs more long-term, big-picture thinking if it’s to truly solve the issue of ambulance handover delays.”

The NHS states trusts should complete 95 per cent of all ambulance handovers in 30 minutes and all should be conducted in less than one hour.

But across the country, 10 per cent of patients were held for over an hour in the week to December 3, while 17 per cent took at least 30 minutes.

Ms Jefferies added: “Long queues of ambulances waiting to handover outside A&E have a real impact on patient safety, patient experience, and the morale of staff.

“These figures suggest there is some hope for the NHS that this winter will not be a repeat of last. However, there is no doubt this will still be a tough winter for ambulance crews and A&E staff alike.”

Jessica Morris, fellow at the Nuffield Trust, said: “While ambulance handover delays have improved somewhat when compared with this time last year, the situation in 2022 was truly dire and the problems facing emergency care were compounded by the ambulance staff strikes we saw last winter.”

Ms Morris added she expects more difficult weeks ahead thanks to very high bed occupancy rates and the threat of looming strikes.

An NHS England spokesperson said: “This year, we set out our plans for winter earlier than ever before.

"As part of our urgent and emergency care recovery plan, we are rolling out a host of measures to both improve hospital flow, reduce ambulance handover delays further, and increase the number of ambulance hours on the road, including 5,000 extra core beds to boost capacity and reduce waiting times for patients.”

A spokesperson for West Midlands Ambulance Service said of the situation: “The pressures we are seeing in health and social care means that when our crews arrive at A&E sometimes they are unable to hand over patients to hospital staff and therefore cannot respond to the next patient in the community.

“If there are long hospital handover delays, with our crews left caring for patients that need admitting to hospital, they are simply unable to respond to the next call, which can impact on the care of the patient in the community.”

Dudley councillor Adam Aston, who works as a paramedic, took to Twitter on Thursday December 21 to post about the difficulties being faced by those in the profession.

He said: "I’m a paramedic. Today, I’ve fed, watered and toileted patients in the back of a van. I’m in the 14th hour of a 12 hour shift and 9th in the queue at a hospital it takes an hour to drive back from. A job I used to enjoy, I’ve begun to regularly hate."

The Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust did not respond to a request for comment.