By Anna Whittaker, Local Democracy Reporter
Patients having to wait in corridors to be admitted to wards at a Nottingham hospital are being given letters of apology which also warn the local NHS is under “incredible pressure”.
The notes, handed to a small number of Queen’s Medical Centre patients this week, explain how soaring demand is affecting A&E, wards and ambulance services.
It says some people are ending up waiting in corridors because the hospital is trying to accept more people from ambulances soon after they arrive, to try to avoid delaying crews and therefore reduce pressure in the wider NHS locally.
At busy times many hospital trusts across the country choose not to accept patients brought in by ambulance until they have space inside A&E.
This can lead to queues of ambulances outside hospitals waiting to discharge patients.
But it is understood Nottingham University Hospitals Trust, which runs the Queen’s Medical Centre, is instead accepting most ambulance patients sooner after they arrive.
It means East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS) paramedics can return to answering calls more quickly rather than spending time waiting to handover patients to hospital.
But a lack of space at the hospital then means some patients are ending up in corridors as a result.
In the Trust’s letter, seen by the Local Democracy Reporting Service, hospital leaders admitted it was a “difficult environment” and apologised.
As part of EMAS’ winter preparations, some members of staff are also being assigned to work in emergency departments during periods of “intense pressure” to allow other ambulance crews to respond to patients in the community.
The Trust letter, from Chief Nurse Michelle Rhodes, Chief Executive Anthony May and Medical Director Keith Girling, is being given to patients waiting to be admitted to a ward.
In it, they said: “We are working closely with East Midlands Ambulance Service to support the prompt release of ambulances back into the community, once a patient has been transferred into hospital.
“Unfortunately this can mean that our emergency department can at times become very crowded.
“If you need to be admitted from the emergency department to the wards, you may be asked to wait while a suitable bed is identified.
“In the busiest times, you may be accommodated in one of our corridor areas in the emergency department. There will be designated staff to provide your ongoing care and comfort.
“These measures are in support of reducing crowding in the emergency department and ensuring we are able to take a timely handover from ambulance crews and see newly arrived patients as quickly as possible.”
Dr Keith Girling, Medical Director at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “We have some of the lowest number of ambulance handover delays in the country because we believe that vulnerable patients are safer in our care, rather than waiting in the community for an ambulance.
“That’s why we work closely with East Midlands Ambulance Service to transfer patients into our emergency department as quickly as possible so that ambulance crews can get to the next emergency.
“We know that waiting in a corridor is far from ideal and we apologise that there are times when this is necessary. All patients waiting for transfer to a ward are regularly assessed and receive the same level of ongoing care from our clinical teams.”
Greg Cox, EMAS Divisional Director for Nottinghamshire said: “Health and social care partners are working together to address current pressures and to improve handover times to allow us all to provide the care patients need. Work includes freeing up ambulance capacity to respond to emergency calls.
“Therefore, the approach taken by Nottingham Hospitals should mean that our ambulance crews spend less time queueing in hospital and instead they can get back to their ambulance to respond to patients waiting in the community for an emergency response.”