Most ambulance trusts in England declare critical incidents due to strikes

Almost all of the ambulance trusts in England are at such a level of disruption that the environment might not be considered safe and patients might face harm.

The majority have declared so-called critical incidents, with many trusts stating that they were facing huge pressure before strikes began on Wednesday.

Thousands of ambulance workers and paramedics are involved in industrial action in a dispute over pay and conditions.

A critical incident is defined by the NHS as “any localised incident where the level of disruption results in the organisation temporarily or permanently losing its ability to deliver critical services, patients may have been harmed or the environment is not safe requiring special measures and support from other agencies, to restore normal operating functions”.

Declaring a critical incident on Monday, East of England Ambulance Service NHS services in that region were under “huge pressure as a consequence of 999 call volumes and hospital handover delays”.

The service said declaring a critical incident would allow it to “ensure our resources are focused on patients with the greatest need, as well as allow us to access wider support from our health and care partners”.

Yorkshire Ambulance Service said it had declared its incident on Tuesday as a result of “significant demand pressures impacting on its ability to respond safely to patients”.

South Central Ambulance Service said on Tuesday it was under “extreme pressure which escalated over the weekend and has continued into this week”.

It said the industrial action planned this month “may add further pressure”.

There are 10 individual NHS Ambulance Trusts in England.

Critical incidents have been declared at:

  • Yorkshire Ambulance Service
  • North East Ambulance Service
  • South East Coast Ambulance Service
  • East of England Ambulance Service
  • South Central Ambulance Service
  • South Western Ambulance Service
  • North West Ambulance Service

A London Ambulance Service spokesperson said it declared a “business continuity incident” due to the “high demand across our 999 and 111 services”.

They added: “In recent days, we have been taking up to 7,000 999 calls every day compared to a pre-pandemic busy day of 5,500 calls.

“We are doing everything we can to prioritise our sickest and most severely injured patients and would like to remind the public that if they need urgent medical advice that does not require an emergency ambulance to go to NHS111 online or call 111 for advice and support.”

Neither East Midlands nor West Midlands Ambulance Services had declared critical incidents by 10am on Wednesday.

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