York Hospital defends sending 1,500 ambulances to Harrogate District Hospital in 18 months

York Hospital has defended sending around 1,500 ambulances to Harrogate District Hospital over the last 18 months.

When York’s A&E department is under pressure, the hospital asks for support from surrounding hospitals with capacity, often at short notice.

Harrogate has stepped in to ease pressure on the hospital in York but Jonathan Coulter, chief executive at Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust, told a board meeting last month that the current system of accepting ambulances from York on an ad-hoc basis could risk patient safety.

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He also said that staff have “normalised” a way of working that’s “very unusual”.

Ambulances at Harrogate hospitalAmbulances at Harrogate hospital
Ambulances at Harrogate hospital

In response, a spokesperson for York and Scarborough Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which runs York Hospital, said “operational pressures are being felt across the NHS and our hospitals are no exception”.

They added: “To manage peaks in demand for services, it is common for emergency departments to seek short-term support from neighbouring hospitals and put in place short-term diverts in the interests of patient safety. This helps reduce acute pressure on a particular hospital and reduces ambulance delays.”

At the meeting last month, Mr Coulter said the two NHS trusts were working together to try and find a solution that benefits both parties.

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He added: “We’re drafting a framework and are in discussion with colleagues in York about this. We’re having constant conversations with York and recognise the importance of working together. Our approach is to be really practical”.