Express & Star

999 callers waiting in queues due to lack of available ambulances

Hundreds of 999 callers in the West Midlands have been made to wait in a queue over recent weeks because there have not been enough ambulances to be sent out to them.

Last updated
The ambulance service is under pressure.

Under-pressure West Midlands Ambulance Service (WMAS) has been struggling to cope with the number of calls it has been receiving since last month.

At its busiest times it has resulted in calls being prioritised as they have not been able to respond immediately to all of them, the Express & Star can reveal.

Well-placed sources said at the peak there were 411 emergency callers waiting in a queue without ambulance available to be sent to them.

It has also been claimed there has been a reluctance to request support from volunteer services such as St John's Ambulance.

WMAS received the highest number of calls in its history last Monday - more than 6,400, way more than would be expected on New Year's Eve. Nineteen of its 20 busiest days have come in the last month.

Bosses said a big part of the problem was frustrated people who had already dialled 999 calling back to find out where their ambulance was.

On Monday, July 12 only 3,610 of the 6,406 were for a single incident, with many others people calling back.

The warmer weather and pressures on hospitals have also led to increased calls.

It was announced this week the service would be given more than £5 million to try to help it cope with one of the most challenging times in its history.

A WMAS spokesman said: “As a service we’ve been under extensive and sustained pressure for several weeks now. Monday, July 12 was the busiest day ever for the service with 6,406 emergency calls received - that is 600 more than the previous record set only last week and far busier than any New Year’s Eve, traditionally the busiest day of the year.

“With demand up to 50 per cent higher than normal, it is taking longer than we would want to get to many patients for which we apologise. Despite this, our staff and volunteers are working tirelessly across the West Midlands to reach patients as quickly as possible.

“If you have called 999 and an ambulance has been arranged for you, please do not call back asking for a time of arrival as this could delay us speaking to another patient who needs our help. Only call back if the patient’s condition worsens or you no longer need our help."