Suffolk: Better ambulance transfer times are cautiously welcomed

Improvements to ambulance handover times have been cautiously welcomed

Improvements to ambulance handover times have been cautiously welcomed - Credit: Archant

Improvements in the time it takes ambulance staff to hand patients over to two Suffolk hospitals have been cautiously welcomed.

In the four months from June to September, the number of incidents in which East of England Ambulance Service (EEAST) took longer than 30 minutes to transfer a patient from an ambulance to the hospital was cut from 17.54% at James Paget Hospital and 13.62% at West Suffolk Hospital to around just 2% at both.

But average handover times at Ipswich Hospital have increased from 4.28% to 11.13%.

The figures were revealed to Suffolk’s Health Scrutiny Committee who were told Ipswich Hospital and EEAST were working to reduce handover times.

Jan Ingle, from Ipswich Hospital, said: “We had in place a system which was funded and that funding has run out.

“But we introduced a rapid assessment and treatment process at the beginning of last week and have seen a massive improvement.

“In September two patients waited more than an hour and 166 waited more than 30 minutes but our handovers since the new scheme began show no-one has waited over 60 minutes and only seven people have waited for more than 30 minutes.”

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Over the same time period, the number of occasions it took longer than 30 minutes for the ambulance crew to clear a hospital dropped from 36.96% to 16.81% at Ipswich Hospital and 26.54% to 8.66% at James Paget. West Suffolk Hospital increased from 18.58% to 27.87%.

Tony Goldson, health scrutiny committee chairman, welcomed the improvements but said more needs to be done.

He said: “The ambulance service has come in for some serious criticism in recent months and residents would rightly expect the health scrutiny committee to be in there, challenging the service on its performance and plans to improve.

“While there are some mixed results, overall we are confident that the service is moving in the right direction and, importantly, taking the need to make improvements very seriously.

“But for now, we should give the service the time it needs to make further improvements to its performance so that it can regain everyone’s trust.”

During the meeting, councillors heard from EEAST’s chief executive Andrew Morgan who said the organisation is looking to divert £20million from support services to frontline ambulance services.

He also said that hospital ambulance liaison officers have been appointed at Ipswich Hospital and James Paget Hospital to speed up the handover of patients and the number of complaints received by EEAST is reducing.

Mr Morgan said: “We have put in place a comprehensive action plan to improve services to patients.

“It will take time to transform the organisation but we are starting to see some early signs of improvement and this is due to the continued hard work and dedication of our staff and managers.”

The committee is due to receive another update from EEAST in January.