Army arrives at Northampton and Kettering hospitals as figures show ambulances queuing more than an hour for A&E

Major incident continues in county as NHS Trusts chief warns: "We are still in the teeth of this"

Nearly one in five ambulances carrying A&E patients were forced to queue for more than an hour outside Northampton General Hospital (NGH) during the first full week of 2022.

NHS England data shows 596 Accident and Emergency patients who arrived at NGH by ambulance during the seven days to January 9 and 99 spent more than 60 minutes waiting to be handed over to hospital staff.

At Kettering General Hospital (KGH), 80 A&E patients had to wait longer than 30 minutes.

Soldier Ryan Francis worked alongside KGH staff between January and March 2021

Officials say 'bed blocking' and staff shortages caused by Covid-19 are piling pressure on local health services.

Northamptonshire Hospitals chief executive this week revealed 300 patients are waiting to be discharged from NGH and KGH but have nowhere to go as care services are crippled by staff shortages.

Simon Weldon said: "We are still in the teeth of this. We cannot be sure we have passed the peak."

The NHS has a target of 15 minutes for ambulance handovers, but only delays of over 30 minutes are recorded.

Soldiers Ryan Francis and George Balkartat were among those deployed at Kettering General Hospital last year

More than ten percent of the hospitals 1,400 beds are being used to treat Covid patients, although data published on Tuesday (January 18) showed .

Local NHS chiefs, councils and emergency services called a major incident in Northamptonshire on January 7 following a rapid rise Covid cases.

Numbers of new positive tests fell last week but Mr Weldon added: "There are still considerable problems we are dealing with on a day-to-day basis and we could continue to be in this position for some time to come."

A total of 14 Army personnel arrived on Tuesday — seven each at NGH and KGH — to bolster medical staff by carrying out non-clinical work at both hospitals.

Mr Weldon said: "They were incredibly well received, providing patient support help the ward do basic tasks around cleaning and maintenance and help the clinical staff by doing whatever it takes.

"They are able to spend more time with patients and some of our elderly patients were particularly grateful because they able to talk about their own military experience.

"We tend to think of Army personnel as being focused on one specific task. But, actually, their role as being resilient, flexible, supportive and able to turn their hands to any task, as well as decent human beings, is one of the things that makes a big difference."