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Claims of “patient stacking” in UK ambulances


18 February, 2008  

UK public services union Unison has claimed that ambulances are being used as waiting rooms, reported the BBC.

Unison said that so-called “patient stacking” in ambulances was aimed to meet government targets on treatment times.

A union spokeswoman, Mary Maguire said:

“It happens time and time again. It is an appalling waste of resources. We should not use ambulances as waiting rooms.”

Currently, there is a four-hour limit on waiting times for patients to be admitted to accident and emergency (A&E) departments.

A report by the Observer newspaper found that some patients were left in an ambulance for up to five hours. According to the study, delays of more than an hour were common, and at least 44,000 delays were reported in the last 15 months.

The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have both lambasted the government over the issue.

Shadow health minister Mike Penning said that patient stacking in car parks “beggars belief” in the 21st century, while Liberal Democrat health spokesman Norman Lamb said it represented a “shocking systemic failure”.

The Department of Health rejected the claim that the targets were causing undue delays.

A Department of Health spokesman said: “The turnaround time does not reflect just the time spent by patients in the ambulance before being admitted to accident and emergency time but also time spent cleaning, restocking and readying the ambulance to go back out on the road.”

Department of Health