A patient was forced to wait for more than four hours before being admitted to the Conquest Hospital.
A Freedom of Information request from the Labour party to the NHS revealed one patient waited four hours and 15 minutes between arriving at the hospital and being seen by doctors.
In the South East Coast Ambulance Service (SECAmb) area – which covers Brighton & Hove, East Sussex, West Sussex, Kent, Surrey, and North East Hampshire - 25,298 patients had to wait more than 30 minutes and 3,047 had to wait over an hour. New arrivals should enter the hospital within 15 minutes and the ambulance trusts record delays in excess of 30 minutes.
Sarah Owen, Labour’s parliamentary candidate in Hastings and Rye, said: “These unacceptable delays are worrying and won’t be for a want of trying by hard working ambulance and A&E staff, who are left over stretched, understaffed and under-resourced. In Hastings and across the south east, we are seeing waiting times soar to the state they were in the early 1990s.
“This mess urgently needs to be addressed to ensure patients can get the proper care they need.”
Sarah Wilmer, head of nursing urgent care at East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust, which runs the Conquest, said: “In general, longer handover times reflect periods of significant operational pressure on the hospital which reduce the flow of patients throughout the hospital and affect our ability to admit patients in a timely manner.
“Though our work with SECAmb we have introduced Hospital Ambulance Liaison Officers who are able to support during these busy handover times.
“We are working with our GP colleagues and Adult Social Care to find better alternatives to bringing some patients to an acute hospital and ensuring that patients stay in hospital no longer than they need to.”
Richard Airey, spokesman for South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust, said: “SECAmb does not keep patients in the back of ambulances when there are handover delays. Patients are taken into the hospital and we look after them either on the ambulance stretcher or a hospital trolley. This happens in any space we can find around the A&E dept, mainly in the corridors/waiting areas.
“This is where we “cohort” or group patients while waiting to hand them over to the hospital staff. This process involves a paramedic manager remaining at the hospital and carrying out clinical observations on patients with non-life-threatening conditions if there is any delay in them being admitted into A&E.
“SECAmb works closely with all hospital trusts across our region to ensure the time it takes to hand over a patient is kept to a minimum so that this does not exceed the time which is clinically necessary and so our crews are not delayed in getting back out to responding to patients in the community.
“There are times when the NHS is extremely busy and when this handover takes longer than we would like.”