Last winter, ambulances queued outside Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital 1,400 times: this winter, it has happened nine times - so how has dramatic improvement been achieved?

Ambulances parked up outside A&E at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. Picture: Denise Bradley Ambulances parked up outside A&E at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. Picture: Denise Bradley

Monday, February 3, 2014
9:37 AM

Health chiefs have pledged not to get complacent on addressing winter pressures after new figures revealed a big reduction in ambulance handover delays in Norfolk.

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Figures released by NHS England show that the number of patient handover delays of more than one hour at the front doors of Accident and Emergency departments have been slashed.

The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital - the busiest A&E in the East of England - had more than 1,400 ambulance delays of more than 60 minutes last winter, between November 6 and February 28. The hospital has only had nine handovers of more than an hour so far this winter, according to new figures.

The introduction of extra staff at A&E departments, including hospital ambulance liaison officers (HALOs), has helped speed up patient handovers at the N&N, James Paget University Hospital in Gorleston, and Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn.

The introduction of a new three-bay immediate assessment unit (IAU) has helped reduce delays at the N&N, which has around 750 ambulance arrivals a week.

Helen May, associate medical director at the Colney hospital, said: “Our team of A&E nurses, doctors and support staff have designed and implemented the new immediate assessment service through which they make a very rapid and comprehensive assessment of patients on arrival, enabling our clinical teams to make earlier decisions about discharge or onward referral within the hospital.”

The James Paget University Hospital has only had one 60 minute or longer ambulance delay this winter, compared with 109 last winter.

Sue Watkinson, director of operations, said closer working with the East of England Ambulance Service had helped speed up patient handovers.

“There has been a significant improvement in performance as a result of this joint working and through specific and targeted action by each organisation individually. A number of actions to further improve handover are on-going including an expansion of our A&E department to provide more space to care for our sickest patients,” she said.

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital has seen long ambulance delays reduce from 203 last winter to 44 between November 4 and January 22 this year.

Manjit Obhrai, chief executive, said new measures had reduced the number of A&E admissions.

“We have seen a 78pc reduction in these [handover] delays and this is providing a much better experience for our patients. This has been achieved by introducing new ways of working, which include GP colleagues referring their patients to our Ambulatory Emergency Care service, or our Medical Assessment Unit, for prompt assessment, diagnosis and treatment. It is much better for our patients who will be seen, diagnosed and treated before returning home. While this improvement is very good news, there is no room for complacency. There is still a lot of work to do to ensure we consistently maintain our performance and improve the experience of all our patients,” he said.

The West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds has had no 60 minute or more ambulance handover delays this winter. It had 98 last winter.

A spokesman for the East of England Ambulance Service said: “We have worked hard with commissioners and hospitals to get the whole patient care system working as efficiently as possible, and as a result we’ve seen handover times fall. This is better for patients as they get to see hospital staff sooner and it frees up ambulances to get back on the road responding to patients.”

“Hospital ambulance liaison officers (HALOs) work with ambulance crews and hospital staff to reduce the time an ambulance is at A&E and so free up more quickly and available for their next patient. Since HALOs have been introduced, delays across the region have reduced significantly. We will continue to work closely with the hospital trusts in order to keep this momentum up.”

13 comments

  • Cannot Say I don't necessarily think the other posts are being negative but that there is a case for healthy cynicism. Unfortunately these days statistics can be used to say just about anything and the fact that they get reported in the media without any proper investigation into them causes a concern to a large number of people. Yes I would like to think things are improving in the NHS but the figures need dissecting and investigating by Archant first before they print them.

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    PDH

    Monday, February 3, 2014

  • Don't be so flipping negative! They had a problem, they have gone a fair way to addressing it, the results show that is working. Well done all concerned. Lets make it a permanent feature.

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    Cannot Say

    Monday, February 3, 2014

  • Funny the HALO is a paramedic ! Is that a waste of a skilled person missing from an ambulance, at the back door making sure the hospital gets a move on. And don't now the hospitals get fine for leaving patients on ambulances waiting! . Funny when hospital get a move on when they get fined too Don't think for one min that the problems have stop they covering cracks nothing more. More paramedics More ambulances More nurses Bigger hospital That what's needed Nothing less

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    DAVE !

    Monday, February 3, 2014

  • Challenge to EDP - get hold of the raw figures, make an independent assessment and then report back to us on whether the improvement reported by NNUH is a 'real' one. Good for them if it is. But is it?

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    Trevor Ashwin

    Monday, February 3, 2014

  • Trevor - glad you have noticed this too. All raw figures are released by DoH (although usually a month or 2 behind). A lot of the time what EDP write are incorrect and do not match the real figures at all!

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    User Removed

    Monday, February 3, 2014

  • This dramatic improvement has been achieved because when they were adding up the figures someone "accidentally" spilled whiteout on the three zeros after the nine.

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    margery

    Wednesday, February 5, 2014

  • The weather is a major factor no doubt, of course the Health chiefs will claim that they are responsible.

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    Crazy

    Monday, February 3, 2014

  • Is that because they've put a portacabin outside A&E that probably doesn't count to figures?

    Report this comment

    Jeffrey Osborne

    Monday, February 3, 2014

  • Has someone massaged the figures?

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    greyrider

    Monday, February 3, 2014

  • This dramatic improvement has been achieved because when they were adding up the figures someone "accidentally" spilled whiteout on the three zeros after the nine.

    Report this comment

    margery

    Wednesday, February 5, 2014

  • An exceptionally mild winter so far may explain this. Let's wait and see how a still woefully under resourced system copes if we have another three weeks of snow and ice.

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    mythbuster

    Monday, February 3, 2014

  • They found a loophole to exploit (you can red all the official documentation on the DoH website) and used it to their full advantage. Also, EDP never gets the official figures that are released by the DoH and instead uses misleading press releases from the hospital itself, making this entire article a farce.

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    User Removed

    Monday, February 3, 2014

  • They probably park nthem round the corner and wait for a slot, and the mild winter has probably helped.

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    SIRWolfe

    Monday, February 3, 2014

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