The ambulance is waiting: the most affected conditions – “These people need treatment as soon as possible”

When it comes to ambulance response times, there are four categories defined by NHS England for how long an ambulance must take to reach a patient. Category 1 corresponds to the most serious and life-threatening conditions, while category 4 corresponds to the less urgent. The ambulance service has come under fire in recent weeks amid reports that those wait times are not being met, some with serious consequences. spoke to Abbas Kanani about the conditions most affected by the long waits.

Kanani said those most at risk were: “People calling the emergency services with urgent problems requiring immediate responses, such as those experiencing cardiac arrest, an asthma attack, anaphylactic shock.

“These people need treatment as soon as possible and if there are no trained experts or access to equipment nearby, lives will be lost. In the case of urgent illnesses that are not not treated quickly enough, lives will be lost.

Kanani said it “comes down to funding and how much more the government can spend on health care,” adding that “the system is being streamlined to deal with emergencies in order of priority (i.e. say that those who are not breathing or not conscious will be given priority), but if there are not enough staff on duty, waiting times will be longer”.

It’s a combination of factors ranging from patient numbers to staff and government cutbacks; there is no single reason why ambulance waits are so high; one place where blame cannot be placed is on the ambulance staff themselves.

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Although waves of criticism have been leveled at them, health experts say ambulance staff are doing what they can with the high workload they have.

Speaking anonymously to BBC Newsnight, a paramedic said: ‘We are on the brink of collapse right now.

“People are phoning up and being told they won’t have an ambulance for six or nine hours…it happens about every shift.”

The paramedic continued: “It would be wrong to say that there were times when I didn’t shed a tear…for the people we couldn’t help because it was too late.


According to the British Heart Foundation (BHF), the symptoms of cardiac arrest are:

• Unconscious
• Do not answer
• Will not breathe normally.

The symptoms of an asthma attack are:

  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • A tight test
  • To cough.

Symptoms of anaphylactic shock – also known as anaphylaxis:

  • Feeling light-headed or fainting
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Wheezing
  • A rapid heartbeat
  • Moist skin
  • Confusion and anxiety
  • Collapse or lose consciousness.

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