AN ambulance boss said ‘harm is happening every single day’ at the county’s hospitals because of long and continuing delays.

Vivek Khashu, strategy and engagement director at West Midlands Ambulance Service (WMAS), made the admission saying threat levels had already been raised to the highest “catastrophic” level with the county experiencing its worst-ever month in June for delays.

“There’s no doubt about it, there is absolute harm happening every day,” he told Worcestershire County Council’s health overview and scrutiny committee at a meeting in County Hall on Friday.

The sight of a dozen or more ambulances stuck outside Worcestershire Royal Hospital in Worcester has become a daily occurrence.

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According to Mr Khashu, who provided real-time figures during the meeting, of the 337 ambulances available across the West Midlands on Friday morning, 35 were on duty in Worcestershire and none were available at the time.

And of those on duty in the county, 14 were waiting outside a hospital.

Mr Khashu said one patient had already been waiting outside a hospital in the back of an ambulance for more than four-and-a-half hours while the meeting took place.

Mr Khashu said the most in-need patients were still being seen first but the “exceptionally long” waiting times for patients waiting with non-urgent injuries – such as falls at home – were “really unacceptable.”

He added many paramedics were only treating one or two patients during a 12-hour shift – compared to six to eight before Covid – because of the delays.

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The region had its worst month ever for handover delays of an hour or more in June with more than 1,300 instances of handovers between paramedics and the hospital taking over an hour in the month, compared to 444 delays of an hour or more last June and 25 in June 2020.

Senior county health boss Mari Gay added that delays had not improved, and the situation was “deteriorating.”

“I would love to say that things have stabilised but unfortunately they haven’t,” she said.

“In fact, the position has deteriorated somewhat. We have seen patterns [of delays] across the country but we are definitely one of the forerunners.”

Ms Gay said an ‘incident room’ had recently been set up to tackle the problems and delays at the county’s hospitals but it had ‘not impacted the system in the way they had wanted in the last six weeks.’

“We are going to put more resource in people, we’re going to have to pause some of the ‘nicer-to-do-things’ across our system, we’re going to have to be harder on targets on teams, because we know [the delays] are a risk from a quality and safety point of view.

“We are giving ourselves a trajectory in the next five weeks for a significant improvement in the ambulance delays outside the hospital.

“It will be all of us, on every level, focusing on this day in, day out.”

“We’re disappointed and we appreciate the frustration.”