OFFICERS are waiting up to two hours for ambulances when they need urgent assistance, the county’s chief constable has said.
Hampshire Constabulary’s Andy Marsh said his force was ‘picking up the pieces’ as a service of last resort.
His comments were made at a public meeting when he was quizzed by police and crime commissioner Simon Hayes and the public.
Mr Marsh said: ‘On occasion, our people are in critical need of healthcare.
‘They’re waiting up for two hours for ambulances to arrive.
‘The system is very fragile and it’s dangerously close to breaking. We pick up the pieces.’
It comes as South Central Ambulance Service said it has improved its response times to urgent calls in Hampshire.
The service is beating the national target for response times to urgent red calls despite facing ‘significant demand pressures’.
In a statement, Scas said: ‘We are pleased that our responses in attending Red 1 and Red 2 category calls within eight minutes for patients in the most life-threatening conditions is currently at 77 per cent for Hampshire, above the 75 per cent nationally set target.’
Scas responded to red category calls within eight minutes only 71.9 per cent of the time in November and 75.9 per cent in September.
Paramedics have to take patients to hospital within targets of eight to 60 minutes, depending on clinical need.
The ambulance service said patients are transported to the Emergency Department in the most appropriate way – including with police.
Staff shortages are plaguing the service, with it aiming to recruit 230 paramedics, student paramedics and emergency care assistants in a year. There are 60 clinical vacancies in Hampshire, with 11 international recruits starting in June.
But Mr Marsh has said that the police are too often seen as the place of last resort.
Quizzed about people with mental health issues being kept in cells, Mr Marsh made the wider point about the strain.
He said: ‘It does feel that the police are the service of last resort. We’re the people who are here after 5 o’clock.’
Scas is urging people to use NHS 111, a pharmacy, GP or other health care support such as walk-in centres and minor injuries Units if it is not a 999 emergency.