Shropshire ambulance queues at Wrexham Maelor Hospital 'alarming'

Ambulances queue outside Wrexham Maelor hospital
Image caption Ambulances are sometimes sent to Wrexham Maelor Hospital when it is closer than the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital

The number of Shropshire patients forced to wait in ambulances outside the A&E department of a Welsh hospital is "alarming" and "unacceptable", the county's health bosses have said.

Figures show 39 ambulances were delayed at Wrexham Maelor Hospital for an hour or more in the last six months.

West Midlands Ambulance Service said some patients had been left waiting for more than three hours.

The hospital trust said the "most poorly" patients were prioritised.

However, the delays are putting too much pressure on ambulance staff, according to Shropshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).

'Very alarming cases'

It said the 39 queuing ambulances equated to about 15% of the number of Shropshire cases taken to Wrexham, which is closer to northern parts of the county than the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital.

Dr Caron Morton, accountable office for Shropshire CCG, said sometimes ambulances waiting at the Maelor left and took their patients to Shrewsbury, 30 miles (48km) away.

"I have heard some very alarming cases, where patients have been left in the back of ambulances, which are not large enough to provide treatment for several hours," she said.

"It is unacceptable."

Delays of more than 30 minutes in transferring patients can lead to fines for hospitals in England.

NHS Wales did not have the same policy, the ambulance service said, and patients could be kept outside the building until there was room in the emergency unit.

Barry McKinnon, West Midlands Ambulance Service area manager for Shropshire, said the delays were detrimental both to the treatment of patients, and the trust's ability to respond.

"We've had delays of up to three hours-plus," he said.

A spokesman for Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, which runs the hospital: "We apologise to any patient who has had to wait for treatment in our emergency department at the Maelor."

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