At lunchtime on New Year’s Eve, Sky News counted 24 ambulances parked outside the A&E department at the Royal Stoke University Hospital.

A nurse from inside the hospital was coming out to check on patients who were waiting in the ambulances receiving treatment from paramedics.

A member of ambulance staff told Sky News that their official dashboard showed 31 ambulances were stuck waiting to transfer patients at the hospital.

They said the additional seven must be waiting round the back after all the space at the front of the hospital was taken.

And they said there were only 56 ambulances covering Staffordshire currently, so more than half of the available ambulances for the county were stuck waiting at one hospital.

The hospital is run by University Hospitals North Midlands (UHNM), which is one of the trusts that has declared a critical incident in recent days.

Medical director of the trust, Dr Matthew Lewis, UHNM medical director, confirmed the “extremely high demand” for all of its services, saying both Royal Stoke University Hospital and County Hospital in Stafford had been “under severe and sustained pressure over the Christmas period”.

And he said the “challenging situation” was likely to continue over the New Year bank holiday period, with A&E hardest hit due to a lack of beds and waits of longer than 12 hours for some patients.

“We will always do our best for patients and keep patients safe and locally we are working with our NHS and local authority partners to put in place measures to ensure that people who need hospital and emergency care can get treatment quickly and to identify and utilise any additional capacity to allow us to discharge patients and free up our beds,” added Dr Lewis.

“We continue to ask the public to help us by only using A&E in a serious or life threatening emergency and for their help when we’re discharging their friends or loved ones to ensure they’re picked up from hospital as soon as possible and have everything they need at home.”

West Midlands Ambulance Service, which covers the hospital, confirmed the figures of queuing vehicles, with a spokesman telling Sky News: “The ambulance service relies on each part of the health and social care system working together so that our ambulances can get to patients in the community quickly.

“Sadly, the pressures we are seeing in health and social care lead to long hospital handover delays with our crews left caring for patients that need admitting to hospital rather than responding to the next call.

“The result is that our crews are delayed reaching patients.”

The spokesman added that the service was “working incredibly hard with all of our NHS and social care partners to prevent these delays, looking at new ways to safely hand over patients quickly so that our crews can respond more rapidly and save more lives”.

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