“Worsening” ambulance handover times

Friday, January 24th, 2020 8:07pm

By Alex Moore - Local Democracy Reporter

Shropshire's two main hospitals are among four in the West Midlands seeing “significantly worsening” ambulance handover times, according to a report.

Out of 22 accident and emergency departments in the region, those at the Princess Royal Hospital, the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital and two more in Worcestershire together account for “62 per cent of all patient handover delays over one hours”, an ambulance service chief says.

West Midlands Ambulance Service Nursing and Clinical Commissioning Executive Director Mark Docherty warns delays in the arrival and redeployment of vehicles has consequences, including attacks on staff by frustrated patients and families.

His report, due to be discussed by the service’s directors next week, says ambulance chiefs have responded by deploying managers to “troubled sites” to help with handovers and appointing a strategic commander during winter months.

Mr Docherty writes that 2012 NHS standards said “all handovers between an ambulance and A&E department must take place within 15 minutes and crews should be ready to accept new calls within a further 15 minutes”.

He writes: “Despite significant effort throughout the West Midlands, delays in handover at some acute hospitals have continued to rise, causing unacceptable waits for patients, operational difficulties for WMAS and, on occasions, significant risk of harm as a result of delays in getting an ambulance to respond to patients.

“There remain four hospitals that account for 62 per cent of all patient handover delays over one hour.”

They are the Princess Royal Hospital, in Telford, and the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital, which are both operated by the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust, Redditch’s Alexandra Hospital and Worcestershire Royal Hospital.

The Worcestershire Royal Hospital accounted for 2,690 hour-plus handovers between April and December 2019, or 29.4 per cent of the WMAS-area total, which Mr Docherty says “resulted in over £700,000 of wasted resource”.

The Alexandra Hospital saw 1,337, or 14.6 per cent. The RSH was in third place, with 897, or 9.8 per cent of the 9,145 regional total, while the PRH had 744, or 8.1 per cent.

“Although all hospitals are experiencing unprecedented demand within their emergency departments, many are managing the patient handover process very effectively, and some hospitals have made significant improvements in the last four years,” he writes.

However, he describes the Shropshire and Worcestershire hospitals as having a “significantly worsening situation”.

Delayed patient handover, Mr Docherty writes, leads to financial cost and other consequences including “staff frustration due to the inability to complete their normal duties”, damage to WMAS’s reputation and risks to patient and staff safety.

“Staff are often met with frustration and aggression from patients and relatives who have waited a considerable amount of time for an ambulance.

“Evidence shows the continuing increase in verbal and physical assaults on staff.”

The directors of the West Midlands Ambulance Service University NHS Foundation Trust will discuss Mr Docherty’s report when they meet at their Dudley headquarters on Wednesday, January 29.

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