Handover delays at Nottingham hospitals cost ambulances 3500 hours last month

An EMAS ambulance at Queen's Medical Centre
By Jamie Waller, Local Democracy Reporter

Ambulance crews spent 3,500 hours parked outside Nottingham hospitals last month – waiting to hand over their patients.

That’s the equivalent of almost 300, 12-hour paramedic shifts.

The Nottingham University Hospitals Trust accounted for 25 per cent of all the time East Midlands ambulances lost at hospitals in March, despite receiving only 12.5 per cent of patients.

Across the region, EMAS staff spent a total of 13,801 hours waiting for patients to be transferred into hospitals.

The ambulance service covers Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Rutland, Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire.

NUH runs Nottingham City Hospital and the Queen’s Medical Centre, and says it is working hard to make improvements.

An EMAS board meeting on Tuesday (April 2) described March as “another difficult month” for hospitals, which are struggling with a lack of available beds.

Director of Operations Ben Holdaway said: “On average, we lost 445 hours per day to handover delays in March.

“The total for March was 13,801 hours – equivalent to over 1000, 12-hour shifts. This was 193 more hours than last month.

“We saw 25 per cent of the delays at NUH, and another 21 per cent at Leicester Royal Infirmary, meaning these two hospitals account for nearly half of delays.

“This is despite only 12.5 per cent of activity happening at NUH. It’s been a hugely challenging month at the hospital.”

He added that there had been “marginal improvements” in the trust’s delays since February, but there were still deep problems.

Many hospitals are struggling with ‘patient flow’. Patients are ready to be discharged, but there aren’t social care arrangements in place for them after they leave hospital.

This means they occupy beds which are needed for incoming patients.

EMAS Chief Executive Richard Henderson told the meeting: “There is continued pressure on EMAS. It has been a very challenging year.

“One of the key issues is hospital handovers, which puts real pressure on the organisation and our ability to respond to patients in a timely manner.”

Figures revealed at the board meeting show EMAS missed its target for arrival at Category 2 calls – emergency calls, which include stroke victims – every day in March.

The target is just under 25 minutes. The EMAS monthly average was 43 minutes and 13 seconds.

Dr Keith Girling, Medical Director at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “We apologise to those patients who have experienced long waits. Whilst we have seen improvements in recent weeks we know we still have more to do.

“We are working closely with East Midlands Ambulance Service and other system partners to improve flow through the hospital and transfer patients into the care of our emergency department as quickly as possible.

“We continue to ask the public to help by using NHS services wisely. If it is not a life-threatening emergency, please use alternative services where possible, including NHS 111 online, pharmacies or urgent treatment centres.”

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