The independent learned that patients were forced to queue for up to an hour outside of an A&E ward, with some waiting until 8 p.m. for a bed earlier this week.
In Scotland, call volumes to the NHS 24 helpline are up to 60% higher than a year ago, with wait times of up to 90 minutes.
Meanwhile, increasing pressure on England’s NHS 111 system has been blamed on a decision by NHS England to cut a dedicated Covid telephone assessment service as cases began to increase across England.
The South East Coast Ambulance Service declared a ‘black alert’ this week along with four other ambulance services in England, and is bracing for an increase in calls this weekend to coincide with the final of the Euro at Wembley.
Following England’s semi-final victory, the service saw a 50% increase in ambulance calls within one hour of the match, compared to the previous hour.
The trust said it was urging the public to help ahead of Sunday night’s final against Italy. As in other parts of the country, the service has been in high demand for several weeks and typically handles 3,000 calls per day, compared to the usual average of around 2,500.
A staff member said The independent Friday that the service “was on the verge of collapse”. Staff morale was suffering, they added, as crews were forced to take breaks miles from their home base and expected to work beyond the end of their shift due to delays. in the hospital.
“We are working hard to respond to patients as quickly as possible while prioritizing our response to those who are most seriously ill or injured – the best way to seek emergency care is to call 111 first, or ” use 111 online, for an assessment that will direct patients to the most appropriate service available.
The last days, The independent has raised concerns about the unsustainable demand for emergency and ambulance services, as the government works to end all restrictions on coronaviruses on July 19.
At Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge on Thursday, patients lined up outside the A&E ward door for more than an hour just to be booked to be seen. Staff on the ward revealed that some patients waited 20 hours for a hospital bed.
Thursday also, The independent reports 15 hour waits at Derriford Hospital in Plymouth.
And as infections across the country continue to rise, The independent has learned that NHS England has decommissioned its Covid Clinical Assessment Service (CCAS), which was set up at the start of the pandemic to provide relief to NHS 111.
CCAS employed retired general practitioners and other clinicians to answer 500,000 patient calls during the pandemic. But the program was quietly suspended with contracts ending June 30, although calls for the service were redirected to NHS 111 from May 23.
A former CCAS employee said: “The service offered home management, referral to local services and could call ambulances for patients without going through 999. I can’t help but wonder if [the closure of CCAS] has nothing to do with the increase in demand for unscheduled care in June.
They added: “It seems crazy to stop now – people will still get Covid even if they are vaccinated and will need to access services. “
Meanwhile in Scotland, calls to its helpline have skyrocketed as hospitals across the country declared black alerts.
Staff working at NHS 24 call centers said some patients had to wait 90 minutes to pass, with ambulances taking 11 to 12 hours to reach some patients due to the sheer volume of demand.
A spokesperson for the NHS 24 confirmed that current demand is between 50 and 60% higher than in 2020 and that average wait times are 16 minutes.
They said: ‘As with the whole of the NHS across Scotland, the demand for NHS 24 services has increased due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“There may be times when callers have to wait longer than we would like for their call to be answered. Patients calling with symptoms of Covid-19 currently account for around 24-30% of 111 calls, and we’ve seen an increase in recent weeks. “
Since January, the service has recruited 192 additional people to meet the demand.
A spokesperson for NHS England said: ‘The NHS in England remains on a level three incident, the second highest state of alert, with staff working hard to manage the demand as patients show up for treatment .
“The capacity of the NHS is modulated according to the needs of patients, and although 111 Covid-related appeals have declined significantly since the introduction of CCAS, 111 additional capacities can be lifted quickly if necessary.
“All NHS 111 call managers are able to advise patients on the best course of action if they have symptoms of Covid, so if you need urgent care go to NHS 111 Online or call the 111 so that the best option for you can be determined. ”