Ambulances lost more than 500 hours waiting to hand-over patients to the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (N&N), new data revealed last night.

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Figures show ambulances which visited the hospital, in Colney Lane, and waited longer than the 15-minute hand-over target lost 537 hours and one minute in October. This was an increase from 440 hours and 27 minutes in September.

The second largest October loss in the east of England was recorded at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, in Cambridge, with 185 hours and 47 minutes.

N&N officials have previously said they are working to deal with the delays.

But Norman Lamb, health minister and North Norfolk MP who obtained the data, insisted resolving the delays is “absolutely critical” to improving the region’s ambulance service.

Mr Lamb said of the N&N figures last night: “It is the equivalent to having an ambulance out of action for 22 whole days in a single month. The consequences of that are obvious.”

A meeting of the N&N’s council of governors last month heard the hospital had missed its target for discharging or admitting 95pc of accident and emergency patients within four hours, after recording 94.2pc for October and November.

N&N chief executive Anna Dugdale said last month: “We had a significant struggle in October with the flow of people through the hospital, and the availability of beds at the right place has been part of the problem.

“The issue with ambulance hand-overs is symptomatic of the pressure on emergency care as a whole, and we are working to relieve that pressure.”

NHS Norfolk and Waveney has also said it is stepping up ways of monitoring ambulance response and hand-over times, including tracking devices on ambulance trolleys.

King’s Lynn’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital saw ambulances lose 74 hours and 36 minutes in October, a decrease from September, while Gorleston’s James Paget University Hospital’s figure decreased to 118 hours and 36 minutes.

West Suffolk Hospital, in Bury St Edmunds, posted an October loss of 160 hours and 45 minutes - another figure to decrease.

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