MORE than 1,600 people arriving in ambulances at Warrington Hospital have been sat waiting to be admitted for 20 minutes or more in the last 18 months.

A Warrington Guardian Freedom of Information request to the North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) found a total of 1,668 patients had to wait longer than the recommended target between April 2012 and October 2013.

Monthly figures show an improvement since changes to the town’s A&E were made following a cash injection in 2012.

But as hundreds of handover times are deemed ‘immeasurable’ by NWAS each month, the real figure for the number of patients waiting with paramedics to be handed over to hospital staff could be much higher.

Derek Cartwright, director of operations for NWAS, said: “NWAS works closely with commissioners, and all receiving hospitals across the region, to ensure that turnaround times are kept to the absolute minimum.

“NWAS has ambulance liaison officers who support and work closely with NWAS crews and A&E staff in hospitals to effectively manage and help improve ambulance turnaround times and patient flow within emergency departments.”

Simon Wright, chief operating officer of Warrington and Halton Hospitals, added the hospital’s ambulance turnaround times are ‘one of the best within the region’.

He added: “We work closely in partnership with North West Ambulance Service and have jointly funded a triage model where patients coming in via ambulance are received, assessed and handed over within a timely manner even during the busiest times.

“When we invested in the changes to our A&E unit last year we also developed a five bedded triage area.

“This helps ensure the dignity of patients being handed over via ambulance so that handovers to our team don’t take place in public areas or corridors.”