NHS figures reveal long ambulance delays at King George Hospital this winter
- Credit: Archant
Ambulances were forced to wait up to an hour at A&E 885 times last month, with emergency patients stranded inside the vehicles waiting to be admitted.
The NHS has released statistics concerning Barking, Havering And Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust (BHRUT) as part of a special series which highlights the winter pressures facing the health service.
The figures show that in December, 885 of the trust’s patients had to spend between half an hour and an hour waiting in an ambulance at hospital, before they could be transferred to the emergency department.
And 49 were stuck in ambulances for more than 60 minutes.
NHS England’s target time is up to 15 minutes.
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The waits, known as handover delays, can be due to ambulance queues or slow processing at hospitals, and can have the knock-on effect of delaying paramedics being despatched to future emergencies.
In total 21.2per cent of all patients arriving by ambulances at hospital were delayed by between 30 and 60 minutes.
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In the week from Christmas to New Year’s Eve there were 276 delays of between 30 and 60 minutes, and 36 incidents where patients were waiting for more than an hour.
Friday, December 29, was the worst day for delays, with 63 patients stranded in ambulances for between 30 and 60 minutes.
The Department of Health said ambulance crews should be able to hand patients over to A&E staff within the 15-minute target time.
It said not doing so increases the risk to patients due to delays in diagnosis and treatment, as well as the chance that a patient will get worse while waiting on a trolley.
The figures are likely to cause concern as doctors and hospital leaders have claimed the current NHS winter crisis is the worst in decades.
All non-urgent operations have been moved to after January 31 to free up beds and staff.
Mike Gapes, Ilford South MP, said: “I am appalled at this situation but unfortunately it is part of a wider crisis in the NHS this winter and we need far more resources invested urgently to stop the situation getting any worse.”
Andy Walker from the Save King George Hospital A&E campaign told the Recorder: “We’ve got more patients because of the growing population, but we’ve also got an unfair deal at our hospitals to manage this, because of cuts to emergency beds.
“There are consequences to the taking away of this emergency capacity. It’s clear that it’s impacting the system and that we need to make good on the cuts to beds at King George Hospital.”
Shelagh Smith, acting chief operating officer at BHRUT, said: “We receive more patients in ambulances than almost any other trust in London. In December we saw over 6,000 ambulances, that’s around 200 a day and nearly 10 an hour.
“As an outer London hospital, and a trauma centre, we also service two ambulance services – London Ambulance and the East of England – so we have demand from both directions.
“We regret any delay to patients and we apologise to any patient kept waiting. Our top priority is providing safe care, and we have been pleased with positive feedback from recent visits by NHS England and NHS Improvement.
“These figures show how important it is for everyone to think really carefully this winter about how to stay well, and to be aware of all the good local care options.”
Emergency medicine consultant Dr Adrian Boyle, chairman for quality at the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said: “Everybody is struggling at the moment.
He added: “Every type 1 emergency department that I know of is under serious and sustained pressure.
“It feels worse than the equivalent period last year.
“This means that ambulances are waiting outside emergency departments waiting to offload, the emergency departments are full, clinical staff are working extremely hard to try and look after these patients, often having to treat patients in corridors.”