Revealed: How hundreds of patients waited over an hour in ambulances at the Norfolk & Norwich Hospital

PUBLISHED: 14:28 08 February 2018 | UPDATED: 16:26 08 February 2018

Ambulances queuing at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital A&E department.

Ambulances queuing at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital A&E department. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2017

The true scale of delays in getting patients out of ambulances and into the county’s busiest hospital over the winter can finally be revealed - after the NHS originally reported there were no problems.

Figures from the East of England Ambulance Service (EEAST) show 600 patients waited in an ambulance for more than an hour to get into the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) in the four weeks from December 26 to January 21.

Another 1,265 patients waited in ambulances from 30 minutes to an hour for a space at the hospital.

The delays finding room for patients at the hospital meant the ambulance service lost hundreds of hours when crews could have been responding to the next emergency.

The worst days were the weekend of January 20 to 21 when 84 patients waited for more than an hour in the ambulance. On Wednesday January 10 another 48 patients waited for longer than 60 minutes.

Data on how many times ambulance crews were forced to wait outside A&E departments because they were too busy to take new patients is collected by the EEAST every day from November 27 to the end of February to give NHS chiefs an accurate view of pressures.

The numbers have to be reported by hospitals to NHS chiefs nationally.

But the figures for the NNUH over the key winter period from December 26 2017 to January 21 this year were reported to the NHS incorrectly, showing there were no delays of any kind.

This was despite there being reports of long waits.

Brian Harvard Photo: Gwendoline DayBrian Harvard Photo: Gwendoline Day

Brian Havard, 52, who was taken to the NNUH on January 9, had to wait four and a half hours in the back of an ambulance before being admitted to hospital. He was sent home that day and died.

The NNUH said the original data had shown there were no delays because of a change in how the ambulance service measured its response times in October, which meant the data “could not be verified” or integrated in their own systems.

But the implementation of the new response times, known as the Ambulance Response Programme, was concerned with how quickly crews reached patients following a 999 call, not their arrival at a hospital.

And the James Paget Hospital (JPUH) in Gorleston and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) both reported their statistics during the period, as did every hospital in the EEAST area.

The NNUH said that because the data could not be verified they submitted a “no data return” between December 26 and January 21.

The EEAST’s director of service delivery Kevin Brown said the trust did not recognised the data provided to NHS Digital over the period by the hospital.

He said: “Our crews and their patients have experienced extensive handover delays in Norfolk over the winter period, particularly at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. Our data shows there were handover delays at N&N every day in January.”

An NNUH spokesman said the hospital receives more ambulance arrivals than any other hospital in the East of England, at up to 180 a day.

They said: “We have been working hard with the ambulance service to reduce handover delays at A&E and make patient handovers as quick as possible.

“We are one of the first Trusts in the region to agree an immediate handover policy for ambulances at A&E which has been implemented and has helped significantly to reduce handover delays.”

There were also severe delays handing over patients from ambulances at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn.

On December 30, 22 patients had to wait in an ambulance for more than an hour, while 45 waited from 30 minutes to an hour.

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