Lib Dems say increasing number of ambulance breakdowns putting patients at risk

Patients “risk being left stranded” when trying to get to hospital as ambulance breakdowns in England have risen 36% in five years, according to the Liberal Democrats.

The party’s health spokesperson, Daisy Cooper, said the figures were “yet more evidence that the Conservatives have left our NHS to crumble”.

The Lib Dems said the figures were obtained using the Freedom of Information Act and show there were 5,159 ambulance breakdowns in England in 2018, rising every year to 7,060 in 2022 – meaning last year breakdowns occurred 19 times a day on average.

Requests for information on breakdowns were sent to 11 NHS trusts, the party said, with six providing information.

Of the 10 trusts which provided information on the age of ambulances, six confirmed they have vehicles over 12 years old, the Liberal Democrats said, and in total nearly 250 ambulances at those trusts are over 10 years old.

London Ambulance Service NHS Trust was found to have an ambulance that was 14 years old, the Lib Dems said, with that trust also accounting for 3,800 breakdowns in 2022. But the trust also had the most ambulances of the trusts which provided data.

Ms Cooper said: “Patients with life-threatening injuries risk being left stranded waiting in pain for an ambulance due to the Conservatives’ mismanagement and neglect of our health services.

“To bring an end to this embarrassment, the Liberal Democrats are calling on the Government to provide the funding that our emergency services need to keep ambulances on the road.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “This data is misleading and out-of-date. The latest data shows improved ambulance response times, despite record A&E attendances and demand for July.

“We are working to get 800 new ambulances on the road, create 5,000 extra hospital beds and scale up virtual wards as part of our Urgent and Emergency Care plan to further reduce waiting times for patients.

“We have opened four new ambulance hubs – with two others due to open this summer which will help increase efficiency and get ambulances back on the road faster, so they can reach the people who need them as quickly as possible.”

Rakesh Patel, the chief finance officer and lead for fleet at London Ambulance Service, said: “We are investing a record amount in securing new modern and greener vehicles over three years, with 128 new ambulances, 65 new hybrid response cars, 44 all electric vehicles and three all electric motorbikes rolling out across the capital.

“As the busiest ambulance service in the country that receives four million calls every year, London Ambulance Service relies on a large fleet. While this higher number of vehicles goes some way to explain why the service has reported proportionately higher numbers of vehicle breakdowns (and why we have dedicated mechanics and workshops across London), we are proud to be investing so significantly in our new fleet.”