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North Cumbria A&E pressures mean patients left for hour in ambulances

Patients were left lying in ambulances for more than an hour, waiting to be admitted into hospital.

Derek Cartwright photo
Derek Cartwright

Figures reveal that pressures were so great at North Cumbria University Hospital Trust’s (NCUHT) accident and emergency departments, that they were unable to transfer patients quickly enough.

The trust, which runs Carlisle’s Cumberland Infirmary and the West Cumberland Hospital in Whitehaven, has said staff did their best in “very challenging circumstances”, as there was a rise in the number of seriously ill patients being brought by ambulance.

Government targets say that patients should be transferred between an ambulance and hospitals within 30 minutes.

Figures in a report to NHS Cumbria’s Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which commissions the county’s healthcare, show that on average, between June 2013 and March 2014, the trust missed this target with an average of 43 patients.

A report to the CCG says: “NCUHT handover performance has been historically good, but started to deteriorate in January 2014 and is continuing to deteriorate rapidly with 151 more than 30-minute handover delays in May. April saw a rapid increase to 89 and the May figure of 151 is an even larger increase.”

It continues: “In addition the number of cases where the handover delay was more than an hour, though still small, are also increasing.”

The issue has already been discussed at last month’s North Cumbria Director of Operations meeting and there are urgent care recovery plans in place.

The report adds: “Ambulance activity in May was significantly higher than normal and CCGs have been requested to look at their activity levels and to investigate possible causes for the increase in activity.”

Dr Jeremy Rushmer, medical director at NCUHT, said: “Like many other NHS trusts, we experienced an exceptionally busy time in April and particularly in May, with very high numbers of attendances to our A&E departments.

“Inevitably this impacts on the flow of patients throughout our hospitals and on new patients coming through the doors or arriving by ambulance.

“Despite these very challenging circumstances, our A&E teams and staff throughout our hospitals continue to work extremely hard to ensure we can meet the 95 per cent standard for patients being seen and treated within four hours of arrival.”

Dr Rushmer said there has been an improvement since the peak in May, with delays reduced from 151 to 98.

“Our aim is to continue to reduce this even further,” he added. “We are already working very closely with ambulance colleagues on a plan to improve patient handovers at our hospitals.”

Derek Cartwright, director of operations for the North West Ambulance Service, said: “We have been working closely for a number of years to ensure a collaborative focus is maintained on achieving timely patient handovers and to support the release of resources to attend other emergency incidents as quickly as possible.

“Generally, the majority of hospitals are doing very well.”

“NWAS has seen a significant rise in activity in recent months, particularly Red 1 and 2 calls which are the serious life-threatening incidents, and this undoubtedly means more patients are being taken to hospital.”

Responding to the figures, Carlisle MP John Stevenson said he hoped the issue would be looked at closely.

“It’s always very disappointing to hear about the failure of targets,” he said.

Have your say

Why does it happen Dave? Not enough beds and staff ,you can only admit patients if other patients are discharged out of those beds, not enough senior permanent consultants making decisions and helping the patient flow ,unprecedented amount of people using A&E because they cant get an appointment soon enough at their GP's so their illness deteriorates to the point that they need admitted to hospital or they come to A&E to be treated instead of their GP thereby tying up A&E Dr's. There are lots of reasons for this mess but Staff Pay is not one of them - many have left A&E considering the lack of pay rise for 4 years and the abuse A&E staff have to put up with - is it any wonder?

Posted by anon on 27 August 2014 at 21:36

Patients stop in the ambulances because the staff are totally over run so couldn't guarantee a safe handover and quality care. Also If they breach the four hour target the Trusts are fined and the staff are usually meant to feel it is their fault and feel the wrath of managers. The delays are always NO BEDS . My friends auntie wanted the toilet and they put a commode in the ambulance.

Posted by Sully on 27 August 2014 at 19:10

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