Record 1m 999 ambulance calls in July as NHS waiting lists hit new high of 5.45m

UP to a third of A&E patients are waiting more than four hours to see a doctor as 999 ambulance calls hit a record one million in July.

Emergency operators took a call every three seconds last month and crews were sent to a record 82,000 life-or-death jobs as demand surged.

Calls to 999 are taking six times longer to answer – 42 seconds on average – and top priority ambulances a minute longer to arrive – eight-and-a-half minutes – compared to May.

And despite medics working “incredibly fast” to clear the patient backlog, NHS stats show hospital waiting lists have hit another all-time high with 5.45million people.

Although Covid patient numbers are low – around 5,000 – millions with other conditions missed treatment during the pandemic and need help now, with many sicker than they were a year ago.

Dr Katherine Henderson, chief of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said: “We are worried that the public think that things are getting back to normal but the reality is that the health service is really struggling.”

Burned-out medics are rattling through the Covid delays, with a drop in the number of long waits for ops and near-record numbers of tests and cancer checks, but patients are coming in thick and fast.

Dr Nick Scriven, of the Society for Acute Medicine, said: “We are pretty much running on empty after 20 months of unrelenting pressure and now unprecedented demand for this time of year.”

Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth added: “These stats reveal a health service in a summer crisis struggling without the resources and staff needed to deliver quality care on time. 

“Behind every statistic is a desperately worried patient languishing longer in pain and distress at risk of serious illness or permanent disability.”

Stretched A&E departments in major hospitals only managed to get through 67.7 per cent of patients within four hours – which means one in three waited longer.

The figure was 77.7 per cent for all hospitals, the lowest on record.

And the waiting list for non-urgent treatment rose by 150,000 from May to 5.45m, although more are being seen within the 4.5 month target and the number of long-waiters is falling.

But Professor Neil Mortensen, president of the Royal College of Surgeons, said: “There is still too much pressure on hospital beds because Covid patients must be kept separate and distanced from others.”

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: “We estimate there's probably some seven million people that ordinarily would have come forward to the NHS that stayed away during the height of the pandemic.

"We want those people to come back and to know the NHS is there for them  – but as they do I think waiting lists will rise because there will be a huge increase in demand.”

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