Ambulance staff have witnessed patients dying because of delays, study suggests

One in four ambulance workers has witnessed the death of a patient caused by delays in the past three years, research suggests.

A survey of 3,000 members of the GMB union working in the ambulance service across the UK found that two in five had spent an entire shift waiting outside accident and emergency departments in the same period.

Four out of five respondents said they had suffered verbal abuse, with a third reporting they had been physically attacked.

The GMB said its study revealed that seven out of 10 ambulance staff surveyed, including control centre workers and call handlers, have considered leaving the service in the past year.

One worker described being first on the scene at a cardiac arrest, which had been coded ‘yellow’ for 10 hours, to find the patient dead, in rigor mortis with the phone ringing in his hands.

Other workers described patients regularly dying in hospital corridors, patients being left for days outside in ambulances, and being told it would be quicker for them to make their own way to hospital, and then dying on route.

The survey will be discussed at the union’s annual congress in Bournemouth on Monday.

Rachel Harrison, GMB national officer, said: “These terrible, harrowing stories from our ambulance worker members lay bare the horrifying state of our NHS.

“Fourteen years of the Conservatives’ disastrous austerity experiment, rocketing demand and ambulance workers draining away from the profession has left a service barely able to cope.

“Whoever wins the election next month, we need to properly invest in our NHS if we want to keep it alive – and that starts first and foremost by investing in the workers themselves.”