Heatwave piling pressure on region’s strained ambulance service

The county’s ambulance service is under “extreme pressure” but has not called a critical incident, health chiefs say.

A combination of Covid absences among staff, difficulty caused by the hot weather and ongoing delays in handing over patients to A&E has left ambulance trusts across England struggling to cope.

West Midlands Ambulance Service said it had been on the highest level of alert – known as Resource Escalation Action Plan (REAP) level 4 – for a few months.

It means the service is under “extreme pressure” but bosses said claims that it had called a critical incident were incorrect.

“We are at REAP level 4, but that is not a critical incident. Equally, we have not called a critical incident,” a WMAS spokesman said.

On Tuesday afternoon, there were 15 ambulances waiting outside Russells Hall Hospital in Dudley; 12 outside Sandwell General Hospital; seven outside New Cross Hospital in Wolverhampton and two outside Walsall Manor Hospital, with the longest delay being 22 hours.

Bosses said the service always sees a “significant” rise in 999 calls during extremes of temperature, hot and cold.

A spokesman for WMAS added: ” Currently we are seeing more calls where the incident location is outside and not in a named road, there are more calls relating to injuries relating to outdoor activities – sunburn, barbecue burns, falls and trips – and exacerbation for patients with chronic breathing problems.”

The ambulance service had more than half of its crews queued outside hospitals at one point on Monday.

A spokesman for the trust said one ambulance crew had to wait 24 hours to hand a patient over.

The service’s nursing director Mark Doherty recently pinpointed August 17 as the “Titanic moment”, when ambulances won’t be able to pick up patients.

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