South Central Ambulance Service is under ‘significant pressure’ – and had to declare a critical incident in January, according to a new report.

More than 100 more patients than usual were left waiting for a response from the ambulance service on January 23.

South Central Ambulance Service says it is dealing with “significant pressures on our service, which is recognised both locally and nationally as an issue.” Ambulances are often diverted to serious callouts, potentially leading to long delays for others.

Some 280 patients across the south central area – Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire and Hampshire – were waiting for a response on January 23. That compares to the average seasonal rate of 100.

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The percentage of patients with immediately life threatening or serious conditions increased from an average of 60 per cent a day to 72 per cent. And hours lost to ambulance handover delays more than doubled – from an average of 150-200 to 529.

The report says the service has had to redirect callouts for lower category patients towards those who are critically or acutely unwell.

It also says it can move ambulances around the south central area to meet increased demand – but sudden increases can ‘impact on our ability to respond to patients.’

BBC South reported on February 23 that South Central Ambulance Service has seen a steep rise in seriously ill patients since 2019. It also said some 22 per cent of staff roles are vacant.

The new report to Wokingham Borough Council’s health overview and scrutiny committee says the service is trying to recruit from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.