A major ambulance trust has called for military support amid “extreme” pressures and warnings of patient harm due to delays.
South Coast Ambulance Service Trust on Thursday said it was at “REAP four” – formally called “black alert” – and requested military aid.
Board papers reveal the trust has asked for support, which is yet to receive the green light, which would mean 10 additional ambulances on the road each day.
Military aid was given to several ambulance services in England during the summer and last month military services were deployed to the Welsh Ambulance Service.
Earlier this month, The Independent revealed 160,000 patients have come to harm because of ambulances being forced to wait outside A&E for long periods of time.
Ambulance services have reported on extreme pressures for months with some being on “black alert” since the beginning of summer. Care Quality Commission chief Ted Baker has previously told The Independent he had “very real” concerns over the risk to patient safety from ambulance delays.
On 30 October and 1 November, South Central Ambulance Service Trust declared a “critical incident” due to the “extreme” pressures on its services and reported it was struggling to respond to calls.
The trust said on Thursday it continues to experience “significant operational pressure” and remains at REAP four “in line with the vast majority of other ambulance trusts.”
The trust said in October it had lost 3,910 ambulance hours due to delays in handing over patients to A&E at Portsmouth University Hospitals Trust.
During a board meeting on Thursday, NHS England warned demand on 111 services was also very high, with more than 2 million calls in October – a 44 per cent increase on 2019-20.
It added: “Ambulance services have been under significant pressure, answering over a million 999 calls in October 2021…leading to extended call answer delays.”
“We have also seen an increasing number of ambulances experiencing delays outside A&E departments. Our recovery focus is on reducing avoidable harm through all parts of the ambulance pathway.”