Local NHS faced ‘horrific winter’ with almost three-hour ambulance waits

People in Filton and Horfield using the NHS faced a “horrific winter” with almost three-hour ambulance waits in December for strokes and chest pains. Local health bosses thanked staff for their “amazing work” during a month which saw high levels of infection and industrial action.

In December, almost half of people in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire phoning 111 abandoned their calls. Meanwhile, calls to 999 were answered on average after 126 seconds; and 2,003 patients waited in the emergency department for over 12 hours.

Updates on winter pressures were given to the Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Integrated Care Board (ICB) earlier this month. As well as striking staff, there were high levels of infectious diseases like influenza, Covid-19 and norovirus.

Average ambulance response times for category two calls — which include people suffering strokes or chest pains — were 169 minutes in the Bristol region in December. However, health bosses said pressures eased off last month, with statistics starting to improve.

Shane Devlin, ICB chief executive, said: “I need to put on record the absolutely amazing work that has been done to deal with a truly horrific winter, in terms of demand, industrial action, and the levels of infection in the community and our hospitals. December was truly extraordinary; but January has been a different month, where we’ve found ourselves in a different place.”

Members of the public are also being urged to help the local health service by getting vaccinated and using the right service for their needs. Covid-19 boosters will end on Sunday, February 12, according to a spokesperson from the Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire ICB.

The spokesperson said: “Winter is always a challenging time for health and care services, but December pressures were significant with high Covid-19 and flu admissions as well as high attendances in-relation to Strep A and other winter illnesses.

“Our extremely dedicated staff across health and care did an extraordinary job and we thank them for their continued commitment. The public can play their part to help, by using the right service for their needs and taking up vaccinations — Covid-19 boosters will be ending on February 12 and we’re encouraging eligible people to get the vital protection they’re entitled to, before it’s too late.

“The NHS is here for you throughout the winter. If you think you need help, please speak to your pharmacist, contact your GP or, if it’s urgent, contact NHS 111 online to get assessed and directed to the best service for your needs.”