Ambulances sent 80 minutes away to Ipswich as Norfolk hospitals full

Thirty-seven armed forces personnel have been deployed to the East of England Ambulance Service Trus

Thirty-seven armed forces personnel have been deployed to the East of England Ambulance Service Trust during the coronavirus pandemic. Picture: Bill Smith - Credit: Archant © 2013

Norfolk ambulance crews were told to take their patients to Ipswich hospital on Sunday, as there was no space left in the county’s hospitals.

Crews working that day received messages from managers to stop taking patients to the James Paget University Hospital (JPUH) in Gorleston and travel an extra one hour and 20 minutes away to the Suffolk site instead.

A message sent to paramedics on Sunday said the James Paget was on “full divert to Ipswich Hospital” with all cases apart from children, maternity and the most critical being taken south of the border. 

NHS figures show there was not a single “divert” in Norfolk and Suffolk last winter, but with diverts already being used, staff are warning that this winter will be the worst on record for patients waiting. 

The James Paget Hospital at Gorleston

Researchers will work with smell loss patients referred to the James Paget Hospital at Gorleston. - Credit: Denise Bradley

A JPUH spokesman said ambulances queued an hour on average to hand patients over to the hospital on Sunday and 10 handovers took more than 60 minutes.

They added: “It was an extremely busy weekend here.” They also said that for some patients, Ipswich hospital may have been closer than Gorleston. 

Meanwhile, that same afternoon at the NNUH, information sent to this newspaper shows around 25 ambulances queuing in the car park outside A&E to handover patients.

Ambulances outside the accident and emergency department at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital.

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

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One paramedic said: “Everyone I speak to says this is the worst they have ever seen it.”

They blamed a mixture of Covid, flu season and the already existing pressures on the NHS for the long delays.

On Saturday, a patient died after going into cardiac arrest in the back of an ambulance while waiting at the hospital. 

They became 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.