Almost 4,000 ambulance hours were wasted across two South London NHS trusts in the lead-up to Christmas and New Year, as paramedics faced delays in handing patients over to hospitals.

The NHS has urged south London residents to get their flu and Covid jabs to help prevent further delays.

In seven weeks, from November 14 to January 1, NHS England said 2,054 hours at the King’s College Hospital trust (KCL) were “lost to ambulance handover delays”. 

Another 1,917 were lost at the Lewisham and Greenwich trust, which runs Lewisham and Queen Elizabeth hospitals. 


Between the trusts, the equivalent of 47 twelve-hour ambulance shifts were lost per week. 

In the weeks before Christmas, more than one in ten patients delivered to the Lewisham and Greenwich trust were waiting in an ambulance for more than an hour.

The latest data was revealed as paramedics across the UK went on strike over pay and working conditions.

The NHS in London has said there were delays across the capital, fuelled in part by a large number of patients suffering from respiratory illnesses like flu and Covid.

Across all London trusts, 18,537 hours were lost to ambulance handover delays in seven weeks. 

But King's was the third-worst for ambulance delays, and Lewisham and Greenwich fifth-worst, out of 24 London trusts. 

KCL accepted there had been “significant” delays at King’s College Hospital and Princess Royal University Hospital “over the last few months”. 

“We regularly see a combined daily total of more than 840 patients in our emergency departments at both hospitals,” a spokesperson said. 

The trust said it was trying to admit and discharge patients more quickly to ease delays. 

Lewisham and Greenwich said it was experiencing “extremely high demand” in its emergency departments, but was “working hard” to ensure all patients were “seen as soon as possible”. 

A London NHS spokesperson said hospitals were experiencing "record demand for urgent and emergency care”. 

“We have however prepared for winter like never before,” they said, citing “more beds, extra 111 and 999 call handlers, expanding the use of 24/7 control centres across the capital... and additional respiratory hubs”. 

They added: "With flu hospitalisations and Covid cases remaining high, the best thing you can do to protect yourself and others is to get vaccinated if you’re eligible."

The London Ambulance Service was contacted for comment.