Ambulances waiting outside busy hospitals over Christmas led to “secondary Covid victims”, the Royal College of Emergency Medicine has said.

Information requests show that the number of hours ambulances spent waiting to offload patients rose by 63% in London and 48% in the West Midlands.

BBC News has spoken to the widow of a man who died of a stroke, having waited three hours for an ambulance.

The NHS in England said capacity had been freed up despite increasing Covid-19 infections.


The number of hours ambulances spent waiting to offload patients in parts of England was “off the scale”, the Royal College of Emergency Medicine said.

Data leaked to Faye Kirkland for BBC News showed ambulance waiting times at hospitals in the South East rose by 36% in December compared to the same month in 2019.

People were also having to wait longer for ambulances to arrive when called.

Ambulance services said it was taking longer to hand over patients but they were doing all they can to meet demand.

It came as the NHS faces unprecedented pressure because of the Covid pandemic


London Ambulance Service (LAS) received as many emergency calls on 26 December as it did at the height of the first wave of Covid-19

Nearly 8,000 calls were received, a 40% increase on a typical “busy” day.

Patient demand was “now arguably greater” than during the first wave, an internal message to all staff said, leaked to Dr Kirkland for BBC News.

LAS said it was “working urgently” to reduce delays. It urged people only to dial 999 with genuine life-threatening emergencies and to use 111 if possible.

The rapid spread of the new variant of Covid-19 was said to be the cause of the increased demand, according to the message.

This exclusive article was widely followed up by broadcast and print media.