Almost 230 patients wait over 30 minutes as ambulances queue at hospitals

An East of England Ambulance. Photo: Steve Adams

An East of England Ambulance. Photo: Steve Adams

More than 200 patients waited over 30 minutes before entering hospital after arriving in ambulances last week, new figures reveal.

Health bosses this week have said the bank holiday weekend proved challenging as Covid-19 admissions continue put "extreme pressure" on services.

National guidance says patients arriving at an emergency department by ambulance must be handed over to the care of A&E staff within 15 minutes.

The majority of the 227 delays were at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, in King's Lynn, with 125. Of those, 60 patients waited between 30 to 60 minutes, and 65 for longer than an hour.

A delay does not necessarily mean the patient waited in the ambulance – but staff were not available to complete the handover.

The QEH, along with the James Paget University Hospital, in Gorleston, has seen increases in delays in the last four weeks in comparison to the same period the year before.

The number of delays in four weeks doubled at the JPUH from 182 in 2019/20 to 376 and rose from 339 to 517 at the QEH.

An NHS spokesman said: “NHS staff are now caring for record numbers of seriously ill Covid patients requiring hospital treatment. But they are doing so while also caring for substantially more emergency patients with other conditions than were in hospital during the first covid peak in April.

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"The pandemic has required changes to the way the NHS delivers care, with hospitals having to split services into separate Covid and non-Covid zones, so to protect individual patients some beds and ward bays have to be taken out of use."

The NNUH reported 48 patients waiting between 30 and 60 minutes and 18 incidents of more than 60 minutes in the latest figures.

In comparison with the last 12 months, the number of delay in the same period fell from 1,331 to 417.

Cursty Pepper, emergency and urgent care performance and recovery operations director, said work was carried out in the summer to improve its urgent and emergency care pathways.

She said: "We are very pleased to see that work is starting to pay dividends with ambulance handover delays falling. 

"We have modified processes at the front door working in collaboration with the ambulance trust and redesigned how patients flow through the ED so there is more capacity in the initial assessment area now, which is clearly having a positive impact."

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