58 days lost as ambulance to A&E handover delays soar in Suffolk and north Essex
Unprecedented demand on A&Es in Suffolk and north Essex has seen paramedics facing soaring delays handing over patients, figures reveal.
In August 2017, the East of England Ambulance Service Trust (EEAST) lost the equivalent of 58 days – or 1,408 hours – waiting longer than the recommended 15 minutes to transfer patients into the care of emergency departments at Colchester, West Suffolk and Ipswich hospitals.
This was significantly worse than in August 2016, when 33 days – or 794 hours – were wasted.
Therese Coffey, MP for Suffolk Coastal, has labelled the situation “very disappointing”, not least because she had previously written to “offending hospitals” asking them to address the issue.
She added: “Undoubtedly, there is still a way to go before the full turnaround is achieved but the vital work of our paramedics and our laser-like scrutiny is helping patients.”
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The number of ambulance hours lost at West Suffolk Hospital more than doubled in August 2017 compared to the same month last year, from 210 to 587.
At Colchester General Hospital, it jumped from 392 hours to 566, while Ipswich Hospital saw the smallest rise, from 192 hours to 255.
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Chief executive of EEAST Robert Morton said: “Handover delays remain a challenge for us, as every time an ambulance crew are delayed at hospital, it means they cannot respond to a patient in the community.”
Helen Beck, interim chief operating officer at the West Suffolk Hospital, said the trust was facing “increase in demand” and more than 400 additional patients attended its emergency department in August this year compared to August 2015.
A spokesman for Colchester General Hospital said in the first eight months of this year the trust had seen fewer ambulance to A&E handover delays overall compared to that period last year.
Jan Ingle, a spokeswoman for Ipswich Hospital, said: “We recognise that it’s been a very busy summer and August was a very difficult month for many of us in the health service but our commitment to make sure the handovers keep to the minimum remains in tact.”
This comes as EEAST implements new Government-approved 999 response time targets, which bosses say will help ensure more patients receive an ambulance when they need it.