Graphic: Lengthy ambulance delays at hospitals linked to two deaths

Photo: Steve Adams

Photo: Steve Adams - Credit: Archant

Long waits for ambulance crews to drop off patients are being blamed for two deaths which are now under investigation.

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The head of the East of England Ambulance Trust (EEAST) warned yesterday that handover delays at our region's hospitals were reaching 'intolerable' levels.

A report which went before the ambulance's board yesterday said two deaths linked to hospital delays in December are now under investigation.

Paramedics lost the equivalent of more than 100 12-hour shifts in the second week of January because of waits to drop patients off.

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The worst week was between Christmas and the new year when crews spent the equivalent of 150 12-hour shifts waiting to drop off patients in incidents 'outside of our control', according to the trust's chief executive Anthony Marsh.

Matthew Broad, locality director for Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire, said: 'Patient experience and timely care is dependent on resource availability, so every time ambulances are held up because of handover delays, it will put patients at risk.'

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In 2014, the equivalent of 2,400 shifts were lost to hospital handover delays.

Ambulance chiefs said they could not improve poor response times, highlighted by the EDP's Ambulance Watch campaign, while crews continued to be held up at hospitals.

Paramedics have 15 minutes to hand over patients once at hospital and another 15 minutes between handing over and getting their vehicle ready for the next call.

The most hold-ups were at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, which will expand its A&E department this summer to deal with demand. In December, crews waited longer than 30 minutes to drop patients off on 436 occasions.

The long delays have been caused by massive demand on emergency services with some days seeing 25 per cent more calls to the ambulance service compared with last year.

In Norfolk, crews went to 300 more incidents last month than expected.

Denise Burke, from the Act on Ambulances campaign, said: 'It is part of a broader problem. We have more demand and fewer resources. Too many people are sent to A&E both in ambulances and by the 111 service.'

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