Patients wait six hours to be handed over from ambulance to hospital

East of England ambulances. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

East of England ambulances. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2015

Patients have been left outside hospitals for up to six hours as new figures show the number of hand-overs missing the national target of 15 minutes in the region run into thousands.

More than seven times as many patients had to wait in ambulances for more than two hours over the last year than in 2013/2014, wasting almost 55,000 hours of paramedic shifts.

The news comes from a Freedom of Information request from North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb, and just a day after East of England Ambulance Service Trust (EEAST) chief executive Robert Morton admitted they 'do not have the capacity to deliver the services expected'.

Mr Lamb has renewed his call for an independent cross-party commission to tackle the 'unsustainable pressures' in the NHS.

'The numbers are horrific, and they only go in one direction,' he said. 'Demand is rising at the most extraordinary rate.


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'The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital has seen a 69pc increase in ambulance arrivals in the last six years, which is a dramatic and unsustainable increase in pressure.

'As the government fails to give sufficient resources to the NHS, crisis management takes over and money is thrown at acute hospitals to stop them crashing rather than preventative services. It is a self-defeating vicious circle.

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'We end up in a sense putting on a sticking plaster but never coming up with a solution that is needed. Every day these pressures become more impossible, putting pressure on staff and patients at risk.'

A spokesman for EEAST said they are working with all their partners to tackle the delays, which 'directly impact on our ability to respond to patients in the community and have risen since 2014.

'Delays in placing our patients into the care of hospital staff can have significant consequences for delivering our service,' he added.

'Both us and our hospital colleagues recognise that hospital handover delays and the delayed responses to 999 patients that can subsequently occur, are symptoms of the pressures the wider health system is under and that is why EEAST is working with health colleagues to identify system solutions where possible to do so.'

The delays also raise the threat of rising fines for the local clinical commissioning groups. The national fine is £200 for a delay of over 30 minutes and £1,000 for delays over one hour.

A spokeswoman for NHS England said: 'In many areas financial incentives have been introduced alongside measures to reduce handover delays, and we expect to see results from these over the coming months. Staff work hard to keep these occurrences to a minimum.'

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