Ambulance staff in some areas have been told to leave emergency patients at accident and emergency departments if they have not been admitted after 45 minutes, according to a report.
A document drawn up by South East Coast Ambulance Service, which was leaked to the Mirror newspaper, says staff should “immediately” leave patients after that time has elapsed despite warning of the casualty’s “possible death … while awaiting care”.
It says paramedics should give the patients’ clinical records to the nurse in charge before leaving.
Ambulance chiefs said delays in admitting patients meant they were struggling to find enough ambulances to cover 999 calls.
The Shadow Health Secretary, Andy Burnham, said: “No patient should be left alone in the no man’s land between ambulance and A&E. We have warned the Government for months to get a grip on the growing crisis in A&E but their failure to do so leaves the ambulance service in danger of being overwhelmed.”
Alan Lofthouse, of the Unison union, said: “In emergency situations, the continuity of care and observation of patients is key to their recovery. This new measure means ambulance staff are leaving patients at A&E to get to the next job without a proper handover to A&E nurses, causing huge anxiety for patients and staff.”
The Mirror said it understood that some paramedics were refusing to leave patients before they were admitted.
South East Coast Ambulance Service said ambulance crews would only do this when “absolutely necessary”.