Ambulance Photo: Public domain
Ambulance Photo: Public domain

Mike Cleverley, Waltham Forest Socialist Party

There has been a 77% rise in the most serious incidents logged by paramedics in England over the past year. Doctors report that ambulance wait times are endangering patients.

When I, a 79 year-old, fell and broke my arm a few weeks ago, I was told by the 999 operator that an ambulance would take three hours to arrive. Whipps Cross Hospital was a 15 minute drive away.

Fortunately, I was in the company of fellow Socialist Party member, Martin Reynolds, and the security staff at Waltham Forest Town Hall. The staff helped me into the building to wait out of the cold. But when, after three hours, it was clear the ambulance was not on its way, the staff who had waited with me until the end of their shift drove me to hospital and waited another 30 minutes while I queued to check in.

It didn’t take long to understand why the ambulance did not arrive. There were seven ambulances waiting to take their casualties into the hospital!

This was not a weekend, it was a normal Tuesday evening and, incredibly, this situation is not a bit unusual.

Once checked in to A&E, I waited five hours for an X-ray and it was the next morning before I was seen by a doctor and offered any pain relief, 12 hours after Martin had telephoned for an ambulance.

My experience shows just the tip of the iceberg. There have been 551 serious incidents posted by ambulance staff between March 2021 and February 2022; 201 were unintended or unexpected deaths, up from 78 the year before. These damning statistics are the result of decades of underfunding by both Labour and Tory governments.

Shocking delays for patients to receive care are now ‘normal’! The Covid-19 pandemic has obviously made things worse, but it is not the cause. The symptoms were there long before Covid 19 and result from a funding crisis in our NHS, deepened by the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) scandal that has drowned Health Trusts with unaffordable debt repayments.

PFI debts must be cancelled, and the NHS fully funded, with the money taken not from workers with a National Insurance increase, but from the super-rich. First on the long list should be the health privatisers and drugs companies sucking the health service dry. We fight for a fully funded, publicly owned NHS, run democratically by staff, patients and the community.