Patient dies while waiting in ambulance for hospital bed

Ambulances queuing outside the Norfolk and Norwich hospital yesterday

Ambulances queuing outside the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital on Tuesday October 12 2021. - Credit: Archant

A patient had a cardiac arrest and died while waiting in the back of an ambulance for a bed to become free at a hospital's A&E department.

The patient, thought to be in their 70s, suffered the cardiac arrest around 30 minutes after arriving at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) on Friday night.

They are the third person in the region in recent weeks to go into cardiac arrest in the back of an ambulance and die while waiting for a hospital bed.

One woman died while queuing for 90 minutes at Addenbrooke’s Hospital at the end of October. Another patient died earlier that month while their ambulance waited for more than two hours at the James Paget Hospital in Gorleston. 

On this occasion the patient was taken to the NNUH at around 10pm with a suspected infection.

Crews were so concerned for the patient that they phoned the hospital ahead. The patient was assessed and treated by a doctor on arrival, the hospital said, but there were no beds available for them so they stayed in the ambulance. 

Half-an-hour later they went into cardiac arrest and were transferred from the vehicle to a resuscitation unit where they died, the hospital said.

A spokesman said: “Our deepest condolences are with the family of the patient who died on Friday night."

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They said it was a very busy night for the hospital and added: “Emergency and urgent care services continue to be very busy and patients are urged to contact NHS 111 first over the phone or online if they need medical advice.”

The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. 

The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. - Credit: NNUH

The East of England Ambulance Service is under huge pressure with record waiting times and reports of hundreds of 999 calls being stuck in queues.

On arrival at hospitals ambulance crews are struggling to get away within the target of 15 minutes because there are no free beds to handover their patients to.

It has led to something called cohorting where either the ambulance effectively becomes an A&E cubicle or paramedics look after patients in A&E.

At the end of October NHS chiefs wrote to all hospitals in England telling them to end handover delays because of the “unacceptable clinical risk” to patients, but with NHS resources unable to meet demand this is not happening. 

This has been a problem for several years, but this is the first winter where the multiple deaths of patients in ambulances while queuing at A&E has been reported.

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