Ambulances forced to queue for A&E

TEN ambulances were left queuing outside accident and emergency at Ipswich Hospital yesterday with patients still on board.

Craig Robinson

THIS was the scene at Ipswich Hospital when 10 ambulances were left queuing outside accident and emergency with patients still on board.

Some people had to wait in the 999 vehicles for more than two-and-a-half hours yesterday before they could even be transferred inside the hospital's new �26million Garrett Anderson Centre.

Other ambulances had to be called to Ipswich from across Suffolk to cover for those stricken outside accident and emergency.

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Last night, the hospital insisted all patients received the care they needed, but an MP described the situation as “very worrying”.

The East Anglian Daily Times understands that at the peak of the busy period - around lunchtime yesterday - up to 10 ambulances were queuing outside Ipswich Hospital's A&E department - with two patients having to wait more than two-and-a-half hours before being admitted.

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Former shadow health secretary Tim Yeo, MP for South Suffolk, said: “Obviously it is very worrying that this should have happened.

“This is a time of year when pressure on health services is often very great indeed. It is a cause of anxiety for patients and their families if a delay occurs and I hope very much that the hospital's capacity will be sufficient for this not to happen again in the future.”

Last night, health bosses assured at no time were the individuals left unattended and that patients were admitted according to clinical need.

A spokeswoman for Ipswich Hospital said there was an influx of patients around lunchtime and that by 4.30pm levels had returned to normal.

She said the queues were because of the sheer number of people waiting to be seen - not because of a shortage of beds.

“It was a question of peak and demand,” she said. “There were physically just so many people that we couldn't process them all through. However, all patients received the care they needed and no-one was left unattended.

“We had an influx of very poorly patients all at the same time. Because of the time of year and the cold weather we are seeing a lot of patients with respiratory problems and some particularly nasty strains of pneumonia.

“We did our absolute best to bring people through as quickly as possible to speed up the flow and worked extremely closely with the paramedics to ensure patients were seen. Teams of extra staff were also sent to the A&E department to support those already working there.

“People were admitted according to clinical priority - the most serious first. The paramedics are exceptionally good and will tell us the situation and who needs to be seen as a matter of urgency.”

The spokeswoman said there were 500 more admissions into A&E this December when compared to the previous year.

“We have an ageing population and we have seen more people come in who are more poorly and who have more complex problems,” she said. “Every hospital, health care provider or GP practice would probably say it feels busier than usual.”

A spokesperson for the East of England Ambulance Service said: “We have been experiencing some delays at Ipswich Hospital and are working with the hospital management team to ensure that patients are admitted as quickly as possible.

“Ambulance crews assess patients' clinical needs prior to admission and the small numbers who have waited on vehicles for any length of time have been cared for by them until admission is possible.

“We supported the Ipswich area by using ambulances from other areas and sending managers with paramedic qualifications to respond to patients to alleviate the pressure on ambulance crews.”

Kevin Risley, Unison branch secretary for the East of England Ambulance Service said the situation was a common problem across the region.

“This is not unusual and I do not think it is just at Ipswich Hospital that this problem occurs,” he said. “It obviously puts enormous pressure on our crews sitting waiting spending two and a half hours when they could be out doing the job they should be doing and it is unacceptable for patients to wait so long to be treated.”

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