Ambulance trust loses more than 3,000 hours through handover delays at hospitals in the region

Anthony Marsh

Anthony Marsh - Credit: Archant

More hospital ambulance liaison officers to help improve the handover process is just one of the measures being put in place to relieve the pressure.

According to figures released by the East of England Ambulance Service Trust, an estimated 3,232 hours were lost by arrival to handover delays of more than 15 minutes in October.

That equates to 269, 12-hour dual-staffed ambulance shifts.

Anthony Marsh, chief executive of the ambulance service, said: “We are working extremely closely with hospitals and the clinical commissioning groups to address the increasing delays ambulance crews are experiencing at A&E departments.

“Any delay in handing over a patient at hospital is not good for the patient’s experience, means that the ambulance is not available to respond to another patient in the local community and puts extra pressure on our staff.

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“That is why we have introduced hospital ambulance liaison officers at a number of hospitals to help improve the handover process, along with actions that hospitals are putting in place.”

The figures were reported in an operational performance document released by the Trust ahead of a board meeting on Wednesday.

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No hospitals in the region have been singled out for criticism, but the Trust stated in the document that hospital delays are one of the biggest factors in the ambulance service having enough resources to meet patient needs, increased demand and improve response times.

Following the release of the figures, a spokesman for West Suffolk Hospital said: “We work closely with colleagues from the ambulance service and constantly monitor handover times so that we can react to any peaks which arise.

“We will continue to work closely with EEAST, as well as our hospital ambulance liaison officer (HALO), to see if we can make any further improvements.”

Staff at Ipswich Hospital have been working on ambulance handover and the Heath Road trust’s performance is now the best it has been.

Nancy Oliver, head of operations for medicine, added: “We have been performing consistently well and are one of the top ten hospitals in the country.

“This is thanks to a number of new ways of working introduced over the last nine to 12 months, including the faster assessment of patients on arrival at the Emergency Department, and quicker access to tests and beds in other parts of the hospital.”

Annie Topping, chief executive of Healthwatch Suffolk, added: “We are acutely aware that delays such as these can have a knock-on effect for other people who need an ambulance and that improvements in this area will ultimately improve the outcome and experiences of patients and their families.”

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