STROKE patients now wait 54 minutes for an ambulance because paramedics are so overwhelmed.
The NHS target for Category 2 calls, which also include heart attacks, is 18 minutes.
But England’s average response time has more than doubled since May to a dangerous 53 minutes and 54 seconds.
Dr Katherine Henderson, of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said: “This is the beginning of a gruelling winter and a crisis for the health service. Patient safety is at risk.”
The long waits come as 999 calls hit a record 1,012,143 in October and crews went to 423,000 Cat 2 incidents.
Even when ambulances get to a hospital they have to wait outside for hours because there are no beds free, meaning crews can’t get to their next jobs.
Christina Smith-White, from Cheltenham, waited six hours for an ambulance with her grandmother, who had had a stroke – and then another three hours outside the hospital.
She said: “I asked how long it was going to take for my nan to get a CT scan because I just needed to know whether or not it was a stroke.
“They told me your nan’s event happened last night, so we would only administer the medication that would reverse any permanent damage within a three-hour window.
“I just broke down in tears on the floor.”
An all-time high of 121,000 patients admitted through A&E had to wait more than four hours to get onto a ward last month.
And 7,059 waited longer than 12 hours – a figure ten times higher than the 725 in October 2019.
Richard Webber, from the College of Paramedics, said: “Hospitals are full and many have people who can’t be discharged because there are no community services to take them.
“Because of this, A&E patients can’t get into a hospital bed so the ambulance crews can’t go into A&E.
“In previous winters you could offload patients into corridors and hand them over to hospital staff, but because of Covid and social distancing we can no longer do this, so the patients are waiting in ambulances.”
Waiting times for life-or-death Category 1 cases have got longer, too – now nine minutes and 20 seconds – as well as less urgent calls which take over three hours.
A raft of statistics show huge pressure on the NHS – with Covid, winter pressures and a patient backlog – and unions are ringing alarm bells.
The waiting list for routine surgery reached another record high in September, of 5.83million.
And, for the first time, more than 10,000 people have been waiting longer than two years for their op.
NHS medical director, Professor Stephen Powis, said: “There is no doubt pressure on the health service remains incredibly high.
“But despite high demand, NHS staff are going above and beyond to see more patients and it remains really important people do not delay seeking help if they feel unwell.”
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