A CONCERNED MP was shocked to discover ambulances were unable to attend emergency calls in time because they were stuck in queues outside hospitals.

Thornbury and Yate MP Steve Webb has urged local hospitals to take action after it emerged that crews had been kept waiting at hospitals after dropping off patients for 8,000 hours in total over the last six months.

It is believed the NHS was fined around £1 million in penalties for the delays.

Mr Webb received complaints from several of his constituents, including a man who had to wait more than an hour-and-a-half for an ambulance before he was eventually taken to hospital by police. The Minister for Pensions visited the Great Western Ambulance Service control centre in Almondsbury to address the issue and ask for answers.

He was told that when ambulances arrived at casualty departments they were held in queues and unable to get back out on the road to pick up other patients.

"I was shocked when I learned how many hours of ambulance time are wasted queuing at casualty departments," he said.

"We want our ambulances out on the road getting to emergencies, not sat in queues at A&E. It is a scandalous situation when one part of the NHS has to pay huge fines to another part of the NHS for keeping ambulances waiting."

He added: "I am urging the managers of our local hospitals to put some real priority into tackling these delays so that people do not have to spend so long waiting for an ambulance to come."

Mr Webb also wrote to hospital trusts urging them to solve the matter. He said one of them acknowledged that for most of 2012, an average of four in ten ambulances were kept waiting more than 15 minutes at A&E departments, with some waiting even longer, but he was told there had been some improvement in the past couple of months.

Jo Underwood, Associate Director Urgent Care, NHS Bristol, North Somerset & South Gloucestershire (BNSSG) Primary Care Trust Cluster, said: "The issue of ambulance handover waiting times is a priority issue for North Bristol Trust, GWAS and BNSSG primary care trusts.

"We all share the responsibility of reducing the amount of time it takes for a patient to reach hospital and receive the appropriate treatment and the local health community is working together to eliminate ambulance handover waiting times."