The British government has set a targeted turnaround time of four hours from arrival in an emergency room to treatment by a medical professional. Demanding that hospitals meet a desired target may not seem like a brilliant way of addressing scarcity, but a public sector union say the hospitals have managed to find a solution: Make patients wait outside the emergency room.
Hospitals were last night accused of keeping thousands of seriously ill patients in ambulance 'holding patterns' outside accident and emergency units to meet a government pledge that all patients are treated within four hours of admission.
Those affected by 'patient stacking' include people with broken limbs or those suffering fits or breathing problems. An Observer investigation has also found that some wait for up to five hours in ambulances because A&E units have refused to admit them until they can guarantee to treat them within the time limit. Apart from the danger posed to patients, the detaining of ambulances means vehicles and trained crew are not available to answer new 999 calls because they are being kept on hospital sites.