Ambulances 'could not drop off patients'

SICK patients were forced to wait in ambulances outside Suffolk's largest hospital because there was no room for them to be treated.A total of five ambulances were forced to wait for around an hour at Ipswich Hospital on Monday night, before a special treatment area was opened up.

SICK patients were forced to wait in ambulances outside Suffolk's largest hospital because there was no room for them to be treated.

A total of five ambulances were forced to wait for around an hour at Ipswich Hospital on Monday night, before a special treatment area was opened up.

The incident, which happened at around 9.30pm on Monday night, comes as figures show a huge rise in ambulance call outs.

Between January 1 and 19 this year, the East Anglian Ambulance Service responded to 2,242 calls in Suffolk, compared to 1,976 in 2003 – a leap of just over 13%.


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Matthew Ware, a spokesman for the ambulance service, said: "During Monday evening it got busier and busier and, at about 9.30pm, we did have some delays in off-loading patients at Ipswich Hospital.

"We had five vehicles that were unable to off-load patients. Then, at about 10.30pm we were given permission to man their fracture clinic, which we have done in the past.

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"That basically involves a couple of paramedics looking after patients in the clinic, which allowed our vehicles back onto the road."

While the ambulances were detained, medical personnel who were on call had to be called in to cover the area.

"The people in the ambulances were being treated," Mr Ware added. "Certainly, none of them was suffering from a serious condition.

"However, it is not ideal. We are working with the hospital to manage the situation as best we can.

"The more stretched we are, the greater the potential for us not to achieve our targeted response times, but on Monday we did manage it."

Jan Rowsell, a spokeswoman for Ipswich Hospital, said it was "amazingly busy", but that staff were coping very well.

She added: "At the moment we are caring for increasing numbers of people with severe breathing problems and respiratory illnesses.

"We have been struggling for beds because they are full of people who are very poorly and need urgent care.

"We do make sure that a safe clinical environment is provided at all times. The fracture clinic is next to A&E and there is a minor injuries treatment area which is opened up.

"We work in partnership with the ambulance service, who care for the patients until they can hand them over to us.

"It is very much appreciated that everyone is bearing with us. We are doing exceptionally well in very difficult circumstances."

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