18th Nov, 2017

Ambulance delays at Worcestershire hospitals are 'putting lives at risk'

Lauren Jeal 3rd Nov, 2016

AMBULANCE turnover delays could cause a catastrophic failure of the emergency services if they are allowed to continue rising according to health chiefs.

Paramedics claim they are being tied to hospitals in Worcestershire caring for patients on trolleys, leaving them unable to respond to other 999 calls.

Mercy chiefs voiced concerns, at the West Midlands Ambulance NHS Trust board meeting last week, over figures which showed handover between ambulance staff and The Alexandra and Worcestershire Royal hospital were taking longer than the 30 minute target.

The Trust aims to transfer patient care to the hospital within 15 minutes and prepare the vehicle ready to go back on call within another 15 minutes.

Statistics show paramedics have been stuck on sites for as long as three-and-a half hours in the worst cases in September.

More than 44 per cent of ambulance trips to hospitals in September went over the target, meaning more than 1,800 patients were left on trolleys in the care of paramedics for over half an hour.

The Alex and the Worcestershire Royal Hospital are among 23 sites covered by the ambulance service but account for 20 per cent of delays across the region.

However The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham has also seen a huge delay in ambulance turnarounds, going 293 hours over the 30 minute targets for the patients who have been brought in to the hospital.

After the board meeting Sir Graham Meldrum, Chairman of West Midlands Ambulance Service NHS Foundation, wrote to both the Director of Delivery & Development NHS Trust Development Authority and Regional Director NHS England (Midlands and East) in order to find a way to deal with the issue.

He said: “This situation just cannot be allowed to continue, and we urge you to take action to protect patients.

“The current situation needs immediate action if we are to avoid a catastrophic failure of the emergency care systems, and we are asking for a more directive system leadership to hold organisations to account for their performance.”

The worry for ambulance staff is not for the patient in the corridor but the people the paramedics are unable to get to when they are stuck at the hospital. Sir Graham also wrote to Caragh Merrick, chair of the Worcestershire Acute Hospital Trust to raise the concerns.

Chris Tidman chief executive said: “The majority of A&E departments across the West Midlands have seen year-on-year increases in the number of patients brought in by ambulance.

“Despite seeing a ten per cent rise in blue lighted patients, Worcestershire Acute has over the last year improved its handover performance as well as the time to triage.”

He added ambulance turnaround targets were only one part of a very complex picture and the trust was working closely with West Midlands Ambulance Service and other partners as part of an overall improvement plan – that could include exploring how different models could be used to better manage the demand for urgent care.

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