No patients died because of winter ambulance delays, analysis says - but three did suffer ‘severe harm’

No patients died as a result of winter ambulance delays

No patients died as a result of winter ambulance delays - Credit: Archant

No patients died as a result of winter ambulance delays, analysis has said - but three people did suffer severe harm.

The East of England Ambulance Service Trust (EEAST) received more than 100,000 calls from December 17 last year to January 16, with patients reporting delays of up to 16 hours for an ambulance.

In January, a whistleblower leaked a list claiming at least 40 patients died or were harmed due to the delays, while MP Norman Lamb told the House of Commons that 81 patients deaths may have been caused by the delays.

It is something the trust has consistently denied, saying while there were 136 significant delays in a three-week period over Christmas and New Year, just 22 were deemed “serious incidents”.

Now, it has pointed to independent analysis, led by senior clinicians from local NHS services, which says that of the 22 cases, no patients died directly as a result of ambulance delays.

The analysis shows delays did cause three people “severe harm”, and the trust has written to families and patients involved to apologise. It says it will do so again to explain what happened.

Robert Morton, chief executive of the trust, said: “Firstly, on behalf of the trust, I would like to apologise to every family involved.

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“We welcome the review and we will learn from each and every case. It was right and proper for this to be raised in the House of Commons, and we thank NHS England for their strong leadership in this matter. By working as a system, we can make changes to reduce the likelihood of this happening again in the same way.”

The analysis came after a risk summit, convened by NHS England and NHS Improvement, at the end of January.

A review of the 22 serious cases will be available after a public meeting of the trust board this month.

The trust said a new investment plan would address an “evidence-based gap” between capacity and demand, and that system delays, including hospital handover times, caused “significant challenges”.

They said they would update the EEAST directory of services and make sure it was well-used, and recruit more emergency operations centre staff.

Dr Tom Davis, EEAST medical director, said: “We are clearly saddened that delays in ambulance responses meant patients waited much longer than they should have done.”