More than six per cent of patients arriving at Kings College Hospital A&E by ambulance are facing delays of more than 30 minutes to  be handed over to staff – something the NHS says should not happen.

The figures for January and February come amid reports hospitals across the country are significantly breaching the NHS patient safety rule.

In a letter from NHS Improvement to trust directors, the overseeing body outlined the issues caused by delays.

“Delays in handover of patients from ambulance services to Emergency Departments (ED) result in increased risk to patients on site due to delays in diagnosis and treatment; increased risk in the community because fewer ambulances are available to respond; the ability to respond to a serious or major incident being seriously compromised; and reduced ambulance response performance due to time wasted queuing,” the letter read.

“Last winter (2016-17) saw record numbers of delayed hospital hand overs across the NHS. It is therefore timely to restate the expectation that delayed ambulance hand overs should not occur.”

The NHS says that transfer times between ambulance and hospital should never be more than half an hour.

January saw 196 out of 2,942 A&E arrivals at Kings College Hospital wait more than 30 minutes to be handed over to staff, while February saw 178 out of 2684. This is just over 6.6 per cent for both months.

A spokesperson for King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust said there was a high demand for emergency care services.

She told News Shopper: “We continue to see very high demand for our emergency care services, during the winter months and throughout the year. The ambulance triage we give to our patients is very detailed and ensures safety and quality of care. We prioritise the offloading of ambulances and always endeavour to release ambulance crews as soon as it is safe to do so.”

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital King s Lynn NHS Foundation Trust was the worst performing NHS in the last week of December 2017, with 57.2 per cent of ambulances delayed by 30 minutes or more.

Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust was the second-worse performing NHS for the same period, with 53.9 per cent of ambulances seeing delays of 30 minutes or more.

Kings College Hospital is run by the Kings College NHS Foundation Trust, which has a £92.2 million deficit and has been in financial special measures since December.

NHS Improvement said ambulance handover delays would be an indicator for winter monitoring on an on-going basis.