A QUARTER of A&E patients faced lengthy handover delays at the Dudley Group after arriving by ambulance at the start of the month, figures show.

The Royal College for Emergency Medicine said the “dreadful” delays nationally were causing serious harm to patients and driving staff to leave the NHS.

NHS England data shows 777 people arrived at the Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust A&E by ambulance in the week to December 5.

Of them, 201 (26 per cent) waited more than 30 minutes before being handed over to A&E staff, with 71 (nine per cent) waiting more than an hour.

The NHS has a target of 15 minutes for ambulance handovers, but only delays longer than half an hour are recorded.

The worst day for delays at the Dudley Group was December 4, when 44 per cent of patients faced long waits – the highest proportion recorded across the week.

Diane Wake, chief executive at the trust, said: "The Dudley Group has experienced some extremely challenging days for emergency patients during December."

She said the trust has had an increasing number of patients deemed medically fit to return home remaining in beds and she added: "This combined with emergency activity means sometimes we cannot move patients off the ambulances and into ED as quickly as we would like."

Delays in ambulance handovers have decreased, she said, since the trust opened a new acute medical unit allowing patients to flow directly into the unit and receive the most appropriate same day emergency care and she added that the trust was working with social and primary care partners to try to ensure patients are discharged in a timely manner.

Professor Stephen Powis, NHS national medical director, said the NHS faces a “challenging winter” and the impact of the new Omicron variant of coronavirus was still unknown, but he encouraged people to come forward for their booster jabs.

The Dudley Group has not seen any patients admitted with Omicron but Diane Wake said: "We are seeing unvaccinated patients very poorly with Covid and we encourage everyone that is able to get vaccinated."