Ambulances delayed by patient hand overs


Ambulances were delayed by more than 5,000 hours during hand overs at Princess Royal Hospital and the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton.

Figures revealed by South East Coast Ambulance NHS Foundation Trust (SECAmb) show ambulance services were set back by 829 hours in nine months as patients in ambulances waited to be admitted to the Princess Royal in Haywards Heath and 4,531 hours as they waited to be treated at the Royal Sussex.

Chief executive of SECAmb Paul Sutton said paramedics faced ‘consistent pressures’, which affect the trust’s ability to provide services around Sussex.

The figures for Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals Trust (BSUH), which runs both hospitals, shows the number of hours lost has increased by 54.5 per cent over the last three years.

Speaking at a meeting of West Sussex County Council’s Health Adult and Scrutiny Committee (HASC) in December, Mr Sutton, said one of the main problems facing the ambulance trust is the patient handover at acute hospitals.

He was asked by councillors to quantify the scale of the A&E queues at hospitals at a ‘typical’ time of day.

“We can often have over a third of our resources not available because they are tied up waiting to hand over patients at hospital,” Mr Sutton told the committee.

While the figures for the Royal Sussex show a 28 per cent increase in the amount of the time paramedics waited at hand overs from 2013 to 2015, there was a three per cent improvement between 2014 and 2015. Paramedics at the Princess Royal waited a total of 829 hours in 2015 – an 81 per cent increase on the 457 hours recorded in 2013.

The handover figures across Sussex have increased by 35 per cent in three years.

The nationally agreed performance standard for handing over patients is 15 minutes, from the ambulance arriving at the A&E department.

In a letter to the chairman of HASC, Margaret Evans, Paul Sutton said SECAmb had a ‘very productive’ session with BSUH and the CCG in November to review handover processes.

Mr Sutton said: “This led to agreeing some tactical and process changes in the A&E which quickly led to a sizable reduction in hours lost to delays in December, both compared with December 2014 and earlier months this year.”

However, despite improvements, Mr Sutton said the ‘non achievement’ of the target and the loss of ambulance hours is one of SECAmb’s ‘biggest risks’.

A spokesman for BSUH said: “As we have the busiest A&Es in the county, there are times when the handover of patients from ambulances arriving at the departments take longer than we would like and we have been working closely with SECAmb to make improvements which are making a significant difference.

“At the end of last year, we agreed with SECAmb and the CCG to make some tactical and process changes in A&E which has quickly led to a sizeable reduction in hours lost to delays in December and so far in January the ambulance turnaround times for both A&Es at the Royal Sussex County Hospital and the Princess Royal have been some of the best in the county.” HASC was set to discuss the figures at a meeting yesterday (January 20).

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