Nearly 100 patients were forced to wait for more than a hour with paramedics before being handed over to medics at the Royal Bolton Hospital.

New figures have been released for ambulance patient handovers at the Royal Bolton Hospital for the week ending January 28. 

From a total number of 500 handovers where the time was known, 161 took longer than 30 minutes, 32 per cent of patients, and 91 took longer than 60 minutes, which works out as 18 per cent. 

This is compared to 447 handovers on the week ending December 10, with 28 per cent of them taking longer than 30 minutes and 15 per cent of them taking longer than 60 minutes. 

Handover delays are regarded as one of the most significant signs that a system is under pressure, as it shows a mismatch between A&E/hospital capacity and the number of patients arriving. 

A handover delay does not necessarily mean that the patient waited in the ambulance – they may have been moved into the A&E department, but staff were not available to complete the handover. 

This comes as the emergency department at Royal Bolton has been under severe pressure, with waiting times on January 21 having been over four hours, still remaining so in early February. 

Elsewhere locally, East Lancashire Hospitals trust had 832 handovers where the time was known, with 377 taking longer than 30 minutes - 45 per cent - and 72 taking longer than 60 minutes - 9 per cent. 

Northern Care Alliance, which includes Salford and Fairfield hospitals, had 1,389 handovers where the time was known, with 268 taking longer than 30 minutes - 19 per cent - and 125 taking longer than 60 minutes - 9 per cent. 

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Cllr Linda Thomas, Bolton Council cabinet member for adults, health and wellbeing, said: "We have got old people in hospital beds who should be at home in residential beds, but until they put money in adult social care they are going to remain in hospital. 

"The whole maternity section has got this RAAC, crumbling concrete, 25 beds have been relocated into another ward. 

"It is a perfect storm really. Again, you look at beds per population in England, it is a lot less than our continental equivalents. 

"Too many people are waiting to be discharged, and you have all those maternity beds taken up." 

She added: "GPs are also struggling to meet demand. The service is falling over.

"I have recently been in A&E, the staff are fabulous, the ambulances are fabulous, they need help, more resources, more staff. 

"My heart goes out to staff trying to deal with it. When Labour left office, you didn't see old people on trolleys, I saw that recently." 

Rae Wheatcroft, chief operating officer at Bolton NHS Foundation Trust, said: “To minimise delays to ambulance handovers we have well-tested plans in place and have deployed nursing staff across our Emergency Department to maximise capacity and ensure ambulances are released as quickly as possible, whilst ensuring we’re keeping our patients safe.

“We continue to work incredibly closely with our colleagues at North West Ambulance Service to make sure we’re working together as effectively as we can. 

“People can help us during the busy winter period by choosing the appropriate NHS service.

"We’re always here to help in a life or limb-threatening emergency, but if your condition isn’t urgent please consider using your local GP, pharmacy or NHS 111 online for help with your symptoms.” 

A North West Ambulance Service spokesperson said, “Hospitals across the North West remain very busy as a result of winter pressures.

“We work closely with them and our healthcare partners to minimise delays outside hospital departments as we understand they can negatively affect patients in the community who are waiting.

“We have been providing more support in the form of senior clinicians working to support the patients who have been waiting either face-to-face or on the phone and potentially resolving their issues without taking them to A&E. Also arranging for volunteers to provide refreshments for crews at hospitals.”