Revealed: Ambulance crews face up to 19 hours of delays every day waiting at Yorkshire hospitals

Ambulances waiting outside hospital for 18 hours a day
Ambulances waiting outside hospital for 18 hours a day
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Ambulance crews faced an average of 19 hours of delays in passing on their patients to A&E staff at a Yorkshire hospital every day during March, new figures have shown.

An analysis of figures by The Yorkshire Post has revealed under pressure hospitals across the region have been forced to delay the handover of patients as growing A&E attendances and delayed discharges push units to capacity.

Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield.

Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield.

Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield had the longest turnaround delays in Yorkshire in March, before daily delays of 11 hours in April and 13 hours in May were recorded by the Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust (YAS).

Elsewhere paramedics had to wait an average of 18 hours per day to handover patients to workers at Scarborough Hospital in March, while YAS crews attending Sheffield’s Northern General Hospital (15), Hull Royal Infirmary (16) and York Hospital (11) also recorded significant delays.

A report by YAS found “excessive time lost at hospitals has remained high” meaning long delays in hospitals are “impacting” on its own performance.

YAS has failed to meet the national target of reaching 75 per cent of the most serious 999 calls within eight minutes for many months. Since December, Red 1 response within the target time has been below 70 per cent, with the most recent statistics for April showing it did so in 69.7 per cent of cases.

Scarborough Hospital. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.

Scarborough Hospital. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.

Dr David Macklin, executive director of operations at YAS, said effective handovers between ambulance crews and hospital staff are “an integral part of delivering the best clinical care for patients”.

He said that delays during busy periods are understandable but YAS is working with hospitals to minimise any impact on patients.

Nigel Ayre, delivery manager at patient watchdog Healthwatch North Yorkshire, said ensuring YAS achieves its turnaround and handover targets “avoids crucial knock-on effects on A&E departments, and therefore, the patient experience”.

Figures released under the Freedom of Information Act have also revealed that Scarborough Hospital has racked up penalty fines of more than £2million over the past two years for failing to meet turnaround targets.

Most Yorkshire hospitals have made improvements in bringing down delays, but turnaround times at York (14) and Pinderfields (13) remained high in May.

Dr Sarah Robertshaw, of Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust which runs Pinderfields, said delays are taken “very seriously” and work has been done to streamline the process. She said: “The trust is continuing to explore other methods which can be used to expedite handover while ensuring patients remain safe.”

A spokeswoman for York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, which runs York and Scarborough hospitals, said it had been unable to achieve the “expected performance levels” due to high attendance rates, delayed discharges and wards closed due to norovirus. She added that new roles on wards at both hospitals are helping to reduce delays.

Michael Harper, of Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said the Northern General’s figures reflect minutes lost through the day as up to 180 ambulances attend the site daily. He said: “At busy times our staff have to prioritise giving clinical care first and this can prolong the clerking time.”

Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust did not respond when approached for comment.