No room: Patients waited between 30 and 59 minutes for transfer to A&E cubicle in December 2014
Malcolm Alexander, chairman of the Patients’ Forum for the London Ambulance Service, called the situation “in-tolerable”, saying: “Ambulance staff are under 100 per cent pressure, with long shifts, staff shortages, no lunchbreaks.
"They are at the edge of a precipice. Staff are being recruited from Australia but this is a short-term solution.”
Dr Onkar Sahota, Labour chairman of the London Assembly health committee, said: “Rising waiting times, ambulances queuing and patients waiting on trolleys are symptoms of a system which has reached crisis point.
"There are simply not enough beds. Lives are being put at risk.”
Last month the capital saw more people attend A&E than ever, including a record high of 77,199 in the week before Christmas. NHS England’s London director, Dr Anne Rainsberry, has launched an investigation into the causes of the unprecedented “spike”.
The greatest number of queues was at Queen’s Hospital in Romford — 636 waits of between 30 to 59 minutes, followed by St George’s in Tooting (531), Northwick Park in Harrow (475), and North Middlesex in Edmonton (454).
Next month London Ambulance Service will begin a pilot scheme giving call-handlers an extra two minutes — on top of the one minute allowed — to quiz people who ring 999 before they decide whether to dispatch an ambulance. It will not apply to cases where the patient is not breathing and without a pulse.
Professor Keith Willett, director of acute care at NHS England, said he wanted to prevent ambulances from being dispatched before the full extent of a problem had been determined.
He added that the trial would also stop multiple ambulances being dispatched to the same call.