Patient Lives At Risk Over Delays In South West Ambulance Handovers

Patient Lives At Risk Over Delays In South West Ambulance Handovers

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    In a bid to address pressures on ambulance services, the NHS has allocated £150 million of additional funding to relieve the pressure. This comes as an ambulance trust recently warned that lives are put in danger due to the long delays in patient handovers.

    According to the director of South West Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT), the reason for the delays in transferring patients from an ambulance to the hospital was bed-blocking. A spokesperson described the situation as “soul-destroying” for their paramedics.

    An official of the Department of Health and Social Care has however said that an additional £150m had been allocated to relieve the pressure.

    They said they recognised the pressures on NHS staff especially those on the front line having increased the number of ambulance and support staff by almost 40% since February, 2010. They also added that the Department of Health and Social Care have supported NHS bodies and local authorities with updated hospital-discharge guidance to ensure smooth discharges.

    Haunted By Husband’s Death

    Jeanette Carpenter said the memory of her husband Richard’s death still hunts her after she waited for more than five hours for an ambulance to arrive at their home in Wiltshire.

    She said; “He put his arm around me and said, ‘Where are they, I’m going to die’, I said ‘They’re coming’.”
    Mr Carpenter, 71, however later died from an internal bleed after having heart surgery.

    It is understood that his death is one of several which make up part of a patient safety review by SWASFT. A copy of the review as obtained by BBC showed that over a six-month period from December 2021 there were a total of 41 incidents of “serious harm” to patients.

    The report highlighted that crews were most times left waiting outside emergency departments and “experienced staff report feeling ready to leave critical roles, which, if left to continue, will render the crisis in healthcare still more of a challenge to overcome.”

    But the deputy director of clinical care at SWASFT, Adrian South, insists that the service had more ambulances on the road more than ever and was well staffed. He mentioned that the problem is that they are not able to hand over patients which is a real problem with the system.

    Patient Lives At Risk

    Mr South told BBC Radio Cornwall that of the seven major hospitals covered by the Trust, the Royal Cornwall in Truro is “the most challenged” in regard to patient handover delays.

    As a result of the delays, paramedics are now required to carry out “basic nursing care” on patients. It is now a regular sight to have Queues of ambulances outside the Emergency Department at the Royal Cornwall Hospital.

    Mr South said “We have to make sure that our patients who are waiting much longer with us are fed, receive fluids – and toileting and personal care needs are taken care of. We need far more investment into the region, and Cornwall in particular and that is something we welcome as part of the NHS’s new winter plan, where ambulance handover times are an absolute priority.”

    A spokesman for the Royal United Hospitals Bath NHS Foundation Trust said they are working with local organisations to open a community ward to free up about 30 hospital beds as part of measures to alleviate the problem.

    Dr Jon Westbrook, medical director at Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in Swindon, said several measures have been introduced to see that patients can be transferred from ambulances sooner. These include extra beds in the with a new 15-bed area that is staffed with medical, nursing, therapy, and allied health professionals available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, alongside a new eight-bed admissions lounge for patients waiting for a bed to become available.

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