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Nearly 500 ambulances waited more than an hour to handover patients over ‘extremely busy’ weekend

PUBLISHED: 09:34 03 January 2018 | UPDATED: 13:37 03 January 2018

Ambulances queuing at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital A&E department.
Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Ambulances queuing at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital A&E department. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2017

Nearly 500 ambulances waited at least an hour to get patients into the region’s accident and emergency departments over the space of four days .

Ambulances queued up outside the James Paget University Hospital. Picture: SubmittedAmbulances queued up outside the James Paget University Hospital. Picture: Submitted

Crews have a target to hand patients over to A&E within 15 minutes of arriving at a hospital, but across the east of England crews were queuing for hours over the weekend, with paramedics telling this newspaper they finished their shifts hours later than scheduled.

The pressure on the East of England Ambulance Trust (EEAST) - which received 1,000 more calls than average on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day - was echoed at Norfolk’s hospitals.

The James Paget University Hospital (JPUH), in Gorleston, and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH), in King’s Lynn, both took to social media to ask available staff to work.

The JPUH posted: “Whatever you can do would be much appreciated - a couple of hours or a full shift would be very welcome.”

The QEH said asked staff on leave to get in touch if they could work. They said: “We are seeing staff having to call in sick with a sickness bug and the hospital is under significant pressure.”

At EEAST, extra staff were not called in. A spokesman said: “We already had extra staff on duty in advance as we were expecting a very busy New Year period.”

However, speaking to this newspaper anonymously one paramedic said he arrived home five hours after his shift was due to finish due to queues at A&E.

Patients reported waiting up to seven hours to be seen on Sunday night as demand spiked, but added when they were seen staff were doing an “amazing job”.

An EEAST spokesman added: “New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day is traditionally our busiest time of the year, which is why we have had extra staff on duty to help manage a surge in demand.

“On December 31, we received more than 4,100 calls across the region. Demand on the service continues to be very high and we’d urge people to only call us if it is a life-threatening emergency.”

On January 1 the service received 4,000 calls. The daily average is around 3,000.

NNUH chief operating officer Richard Parker said the hospital was “extremely busy”. He said: “The trust has made preparations throughout the year for these extreme pressures and has worked to improve efficiencies and we know our staff are working hard to ensure excellent patient care is maintained at all times.”

A total of 201 people attended A&E at QEH on Christmas Eve with more than 63 patients arriving at the department between 5pm and midnight on New Year’s Eve.

Chief Executive Jon Green said his staff “rose admirably” to the challenge of “significant pressure” at the hospital.:

“During the New Year weekend, we saw large numbers of very sick patients and a substantial number of frontline staff who were struck down with a sickness bug and unable to work,” he said.

JPUH chief executive Christine Allen added the weekend was “extremely challenging with huge pressure in our A&E department and on our bed capacity”.

She said: “We managed to cope with this demand, thanks to our escalation plans and the exceptional dedication of our staff to ensuring our patients continued to received safe patient care.

“It is still very busy at our hospital and we will be working closely with our local health and social care partners throughout the day, with the aim of easing pressure on the system by safely discharging as many patients as possible either home or to on-going care elsewhere in the community.

“This will help free up bed space for emergency cases coming through our A&E department.

“However, local people can help. We continue to urge people not to use A&E unless it is a genuine emergency. For minor conditions, GPs, pharmacies and the NHS 111 service will be able to assist or to signpost to the most appropriate service.”

A total of 201 people attended A&E at QEH on Christmas Eve with more than 63 patients arriving at the department between 5pm and midnight on New Year’s Eve.

Chief executive Jon Green said: “During the New Year weekend, we saw large numbers of very sick patients and a substantial number of frontline staff who were struck down with a sickness bug and unable to work.”JPUH chief executive Christine Allen added the weekend was “extremely challenging with huge pressure in our A&E department and on our bed capacity”. She said: “We managed to cope with this demand, thanks to our escalation plans and the exceptional dedication of our staff to ensuring our patients continued to received safe patient care.”

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