Patients taken to hospital by ambulance facing “unacceptable delays”

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Patients taken to hospital by ambulance facing “unacceptable delays”

13th December 2011

Patients being taken by ambulance to hospitals in England are facing unacceptable delays at A&E departments, according to a new BBC report.

Data obtained from 11 ambulance services through Freedom of Information requests showed that all were experiencing difficulties handing over patients to the care of the hospitals. Alarmingly in more than half of cases, hospitals ‘missed’ the target of taking charge of patients within 15 minutes of arriving by ambulance.

“In some extreme cases, patients are being forced to wait for an hour or more,” said Jacqui Hayat, head of the London Medical Negligence department at Fentons Solicitors LLP. “This not only delays their own treatment and diagnosis, but crucially means that paramedic crews are delayed from attending other 999 calls whilst they wait for a nurse or doctor to take the patient off their hands.”

Although the report pointed out that systems are in place to ensure patients whose lives are in danger are prioritised ahead of those who are not at immediate risk, the report conceded that in the worst cases, A&E units have to close for a short period and divert ambulance crews to other hospitals.

“The report showed that London has the worst difficulties,” said Jacqui. “Although the 15-minute goal is not an official target, the fact that in recent months it is being missed in more than 45% of cases on average is cause for concern. At the start of 2009 the rate was just over 25%, so there is clearly a worsening issue there,” she said.

The situation has led to patients waiting on ambulance trolleys and in hospital corridors for treatment, so that ambulance crews are able to respond to other emergency calls.

“The 15-minute target is only expected to be met in 85% of cases at London hospitals, because of the busy nature and specific difficulties faced by the health system in the nation’s capital,” she said, “but none of the 33 London hospitals are currently managing even that.”

Jacqui said the latest revelations served to highlight the difficulties being faced by the NHS. “Clearly there is a struggle to meet the needs and care of the thousands who rely on the NHS for emergency treatment,” she said. “We have acted for clients in many cases where a delayed diagnosis has led to their condition worsening, or where failure to treat earlier has exacerbated their condition. Making patients wait in ambulance bays or on trolleys in corridors is not going to help to eradicate this kind of issue, and is simply unacceptable.”

Read more at: BBC News