Hospital parking has been a sore point for patients for years.

But now The Argus can reveal that ambulances are spending hours every day parked outside the doors of Sussex hospitals.

Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show more than 10,000 hours have been wasted by ambulances waiting outside the accident and emergency departments at Sussex's major hospitals since April - more than the equivalent of an ambulance being parked outside a hospital for every minute of the year.

Ambulance bosses say the delays cost the service more than £1.3 million a year.

Patient campaigners described the figures as deeply worrying and warned that lives could be put at risk.

The waiting times include the time taken to hand over patients to A&E staff, restock and clean the vehicles.

A spokesman for South East Coast Ambulance Service said it responded to more than half a million emergency calls last year and the lost hours accounted for a small percentage of its emergency responses.