Need an Ambulance? Need it now? Can’t get one? Maybe this will help explain why.
I’ve heard of Bed Blocking in the NHS but until recently I had never heard of Ambulance Blocking. Well I have now and it isn’t funny.
Big Brother assures us that it isn’t a widespread problem, but everywhere I looked I found terrible examples of it. Maybe I was just lucky?
The first item I found was this;
The number of ambulance handovers delayed by more than 20 minutes to Gloucestershire Royal Hospital and Cheltenham General Hospital is above target with high admissions levels being blamed.
Delays decreased in August of this year after rising in June and July, but the number of patients left waiting was still above the monthly target of 174. Since April, there have been 1,339 delays. The target for the same period was 870.
In Cornwall, Ambulance Blocking is costing them a fortune
A hospital trust in Cornwall has had to pay more than £100,000 in penalties for keeping ambulances waiting this year.
The Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust (RCHT) is charged £100 every time an ambulance is held for more than 30 minutes during a hospital handover.
A report for the trust’s board said there had so far been 1,018 recorded delays in 2012.
Maybe, just maybe, one of the reasons for this began to come clear last week
NHS managers are accused of leaving patients in the vehicles so they can meet the target to treat everyone within four hours of being admitted to accident and emergency..
If this is true this is awful, it’s the T word all over again. We know how damaging Targets can be, we’ve all suffered them, and has anyone apart from management actually benefited from them? My doctor’s surgery has a target to give you an appointment within so many days of requesting one. For that reason I cannot make an appointment for 1 month later when the doctor says “Come back in see me in a month” I have to wait and take my chances with everyone else, just so the target figures aren’t spoilt.
Neither is it a problem restricted to the West Country
PERFORMANCE: Acute providers in Warwickshire are struggling against targets for emergency admissions and ambulance handovers.
Arden primary care trust cluster’s May performance report shows that South Warwickshire Foundation Trust, University Hospitals of Coventry and Warwickshire Trust both continue to under-perform on ambulance handover, with “significantly less” than 90 per cent of handovers completed in 30 minutes.
Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital will be fined £70 per hour for ambulance handover delays, which are aimed to be completed within 15 minutes. The financial penalties have been introduced in an attempt to put pressure on the hospital to improve its times, with commissioners saying the N&N’s poor performance in this area is severely hampering the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust’s ability to meet its response time targets.
Did I just see the T word again?
Leafy Sussex is no better
South East Coast Ambulance Service (Secamb) turnaround times take into account the length of time it takes to hand over patients they bring in and preparing the ambulance for the next incident, including cleaning and re-stocking.
It should take 15 minutes to hand over a patient and another 15 minutes to prepare the vehicle.
Any turnaround time taking more than 30 minutes is logged by the service.
However hospitals are under increased pressure, meaning it can sometimes take longer for patients to be transferred from ambulances and into the department, especially at particularly busy times such as Friday nights and weekends.
Figures show more than 2,404 hours were logged at the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton in 2009/10 which rose to 2,852 in 2011/2.
Worthing Hospital rose from 1,315 to 1,477 and Eastbourne District General Hospital increased from 3,633 to 4,102.
The Conquest Hospital in St Leonards fell from 2,596 hours to 1,827 while St Richard’s in Chichester dropped from 1,025 to 988.
London is no better
In December 2011 it was reported:-
Half of our patients taken to hospital have to wait longer than 15 minutes to be assessed in A&E according to our latest figures.
Last week 6,000 patients in London waited longer than the recommended 15 minutes to be seen by hospital staff.
Whilst it isn’t apparently a widespread problem the NHS top brass were forced to issue this letter in June 2012.
What this letter does not mention, and you will have noticed it above, is a Fine System for hospitals exceeding the 15 Minute Rule. This means that Hospitals not assessing an Ambulance borne patient in A&E within 15 minutes are liable to be fined for each occasion when they fail. At this pointy I nearly spat out my Mellow Birds. Never mind the T word, what if the P word comes about. Can you imagine a privatised scenario?
A&E staff running around like lemmings trying to get everyone seen within 15 minutes or the hospital shareholders will be on the warpath. Which cartel manages to win the Ambulance contract will be rubbing their corporate hands with glee “That’s another £100 fine we can levy” It will be like wheel clamping all over again.
But wait!! It isn’t even that simple.
Picture this, Granny has crushed her left wrist in the mangle. She’s in a lot of pain, she’s probably broken a couple of the small bones in her wrist, you need an ambulance. Only you can’t get one just yet as they’re all held up a the nearest A&E Department waiting to have their patients assessed and admitted into A&E’s care, freeing them up to come and sort out Granny.
On a less humourous note, the National Audit Office put a figure of approx £4,000,000 wasted by Ambulance Blocking such as this.
Some things are more important than money.
To leave you on a humourous note (if there is one) while I was researching this article I found this. The longest turnaround time was recorded as six hours 39 minutes with the reason given that the ambulance was impounded by the police.