Patients waiting up to two hours as ambulances queue outside hospitals

The Northern Echo: Ambulances outside The James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough. Ambulances outside The James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough.

AMBULANCES are queuing for up to two hours outside hospitals before they are able to handover patients, The Northern Echo can reveal.

Paramedics warn it is only a matter of time until the delays - which also hampering their response to other 999 calls - result in a patient's death.

Staff at both Yorkshire Ambulance Service (YAS) and North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) say they are experiencing delays in handing over patients at many of the region's hospitals.

However, they described the situation at James Cook University Hospital, Middlesbrough, as "dangerous".

One experienced paramedic told The Northern Echo: "Somebody is going to die somewhere down the line and it could be the most vulnerable, children.

"Families of sick people arrive at hospitals and expect to find them in a bed, but they are still outside in an ambulance. The frustration of ambulance staff is beyond belief."

Bosses at James Cook which has been trying for months to reduce handover delays, said an increase in numbers of very sick patients meant at times there is not enough cubicles or staff to cope.

The news comes as 17 NHS hospitals in England - including Scarborough Hospital - were identified as having dangerously low staffing levels following inspections by the Care Quality Commission.

Paramedics say that as queues of up to ten ambulances "stack up" outside the hospital for up to two hours, their ability to respond to 999 calls is curbed.

This has resulted in ambulances from as far afield as Lancashire being brought in to cover other emergencies.

Health watchdogs have described the situation as "grave" - particularly as ambulances face longer journeys as more hospital services are moved to regional centres of excellence.

South Tees Hospitals NHS Trust said while James Cook's accident and emergency department was designed to provide for 60,000 cases per year, it now expects to handle 105,000 cases.

Susan Watson, operational director, said: "It is certainly an unacceptable situation. The whole team are working together to try and address this.

"We know we are struggling with patient flow. This is not about money, it is about patient care."

"We are seeing a real surge in demand from very sick patients, but it is going to take some time for us to create both physical capacity and staffing numbers.

"We are looking at redesigning the department to cope. Clearly to receive the patient we have to have a cubicle to put the patient into."

It is understood that as a consequence of ambulance staff working maximum overtime due to the wasted hours, it has resulted in a reduction in the number of operational ambulances at some North Yorkshire stations  at weekends.

YAS chairman Della Cannings said that a lack of NHS performance targets focusing on patient handover times meant hospitals lacked incentive to improve.

However, a spokesman for the NHS Commissioning Board said that from April, it would expect that all ambulance handovers would take place within 15 minutes and that both hospital and ambulance trusts face an escalating fine for delays exceeding 30 minutes and an hour.

Comments (8)

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9:49am Mon 14 Jan 13

Chickbabe says...

Why is this a surprise when other A&E's are being closed and the staffing numbers reduced?
Why is this a surprise when other A&E's are being closed and the staffing numbers reduced? Chickbabe

11:33am Mon 14 Jan 13

stevegg says...

This is what happens when services are cut to the bare minimum, just in time approach, there is absolutely miniscule or no flexibility at all. This is either set to continue or get worse as more and more demands are placed on the NHS with more expectations from patients & families, a growing elderly population, ongoing mass immigration, population boom outstrpping services and health tourists exploiting the NHS. The NHS accounts for over 10% of the UK's GDP at over £100 billion to run with most of this spent on huge wages and 1.3 million staff, there is gross inefficiency and levels of beurocracy which have attempted to reform but failed miserably. A good friend of mine works as a facility manager for a private company running services for an NHS trust and tells me their is huge waste, inefficiency and overpayment of services provided making huge profits for their company at taxpayers expense. What would happen if a major disaster or contagion occurred, put simply the NHS could not cope and would have to be selective about who to help or collapse altogether. The NHS infrastructure, like most public services, is either static or in decline and cannot hope to meet the levels of care now expected. Eventually something will have to give unless the government gets tough and places rules on who is entitled to what. The NHS as we know it now probably wont exist in a decades time as things stand otherwise it will drown and collapse from huge demand on its belegured services. Whatever way you look at it, unless there is huge internal cost cutting reform, or massive investment (both highly unlikely) the picture is bleak.
This is what happens when services are cut to the bare minimum, just in time approach, there is absolutely miniscule or no flexibility at all. This is either set to continue or get worse as more and more demands are placed on the NHS with more expectations from patients & families, a growing elderly population, ongoing mass immigration, population boom outstrpping services and health tourists exploiting the NHS. The NHS accounts for over 10% of the UK's GDP at over £100 billion to run with most of this spent on huge wages and 1.3 million staff, there is gross inefficiency and levels of beurocracy which have attempted to reform but failed miserably. A good friend of mine works as a facility manager for a private company running services for an NHS trust and tells me their is huge waste, inefficiency and overpayment of services provided making huge profits for their company at taxpayers expense. What would happen if a major disaster or contagion occurred, put simply the NHS could not cope and would have to be selective about who to help or collapse altogether. The NHS infrastructure, like most public services, is either static or in decline and cannot hope to meet the levels of care now expected. Eventually something will have to give unless the government gets tough and places rules on who is entitled to what. The NHS as we know it now probably wont exist in a decades time as things stand otherwise it will drown and collapse from huge demand on its belegured services. Whatever way you look at it, unless there is huge internal cost cutting reform, or massive investment (both highly unlikely) the picture is bleak. stevegg

12:48pm Mon 14 Jan 13

agnusm says...

This is the result of closing beds at the friarage and reducing staffing levels there, All trauma go to JCUH instead of the friarage, Coronary patients and stroke patients are taken straight there aswell, the medical and surgical depts at the Friarage were coping well and giving a high standard of care till JCUH took us over and stripped all of our assets, they will not be content untill the Friarage hospital cannot cope with staff and bed shortages giving them the chance to close it down
This is the result of closing beds at the friarage and reducing staffing levels there, All trauma go to JCUH instead of the friarage, Coronary patients and stroke patients are taken straight there aswell, the medical and surgical depts at the Friarage were coping well and giving a high standard of care till JCUH took us over and stripped all of our assets, they will not be content untill the Friarage hospital cannot cope with staff and bed shortages giving them the chance to close it down agnusm

2:11pm Mon 14 Jan 13

Daza says...

Welcome to David Cameron's 'BIG SOCIETY'
Welcome to David Cameron's 'BIG SOCIETY' Daza

9:46pm Mon 14 Jan 13

pandorica says...

It starts at the top where patients who are called bedblockers ( not my name for them) but social services cases waiting for social inpit or a nursing home place. Until this is sorted there kept in hospital as it is unsafe to send them home. These take up much needed beds for patients coming in through A&E so then the staff on wards are ringing round trying to sleep the patients out to quiter wards to make room. This then puts all the staff down in A&E under a lot of pressure as we have a 4 hour rule to follow and patients backed up in every corner of the department awaiting a bed on one of these wards where the bedblockers are. So as you can see we get completely backed up with no where for the patients, then we have all the Pre alerts from the ambulances telling us of a critical coming in, as well as everyone in minors and majors,and childrens. So if the Chief exec perhaps came to help us instead of threatning us every time one of our pateints breaches the 4 hour time limit we might perhaps be in a better place to help everyone. But no, instead you shut down much needed medical wards, amalagmate surgical wards, decrease staffing on all wards, and decrease staffing in A&E. So yes, we do the bloody best we can for our patients. The criticals who get brought in are seen to immediatley. Not forgetting the Air Ambulances bringing in from 2 regions. But also i have to mention we have a duty of care to see everyone so perhaps those people who sit in the waiting room ranting they have been waiting ages perhaps should maybye of gone to their local walk in centre with their graze to their knee, or a 3 day old cut to their head, or rang out of medication. Then those people who ring 999 and expect our crewes to basically taxi them to hospital with basically nothing wrong with them but enjoy the trip out none the less. They see the same people week in week out and know the routine with these time wasters but are professional in their approach and do their job. I feel for my colleagues and i hope it does not come to someone dying in the back of an ambulance outside A&E as there are no beds, blankets, or indeed staff to nurse them. No amount of IR1 forms we fill in and send up to management about the critical state we are in are resolved. We do not get listened to. So all those who are hell bent in slagging us all off come spend a week down here with us or out with our crewes and see what impossibliltys we face everyday.
It starts at the top where patients who are called bedblockers ( not my name for them) but social services cases waiting for social inpit or a nursing home place. Until this is sorted there kept in hospital as it is unsafe to send them home. These take up much needed beds for patients coming in through A&E so then the staff on wards are ringing round trying to sleep the patients out to quiter wards to make room. This then puts all the staff down in A&E under a lot of pressure as we have a 4 hour rule to follow and patients backed up in every corner of the department awaiting a bed on one of these wards where the bedblockers are. So as you can see we get completely backed up with no where for the patients, then we have all the Pre alerts from the ambulances telling us of a critical coming in, as well as everyone in minors and majors,and childrens. So if the Chief exec perhaps came to help us instead of threatning us every time one of our pateints breaches the 4 hour time limit we might perhaps be in a better place to help everyone. But no, instead you shut down much needed medical wards, amalagmate surgical wards, decrease staffing on all wards, and decrease staffing in A&E. So yes, we do the bloody best we can for our patients. The criticals who get brought in are seen to immediatley. Not forgetting the Air Ambulances bringing in from 2 regions. But also i have to mention we have a duty of care to see everyone so perhaps those people who sit in the waiting room ranting they have been waiting ages perhaps should maybye of gone to their local walk in centre with their graze to their knee, or a 3 day old cut to their head, or rang out of medication. Then those people who ring 999 and expect our crewes to basically taxi them to hospital with basically nothing wrong with them but enjoy the trip out none the less. They see the same people week in week out and know the routine with these time wasters but are professional in their approach and do their job. I feel for my colleagues and i hope it does not come to someone dying in the back of an ambulance outside A&E as there are no beds, blankets, or indeed staff to nurse them. No amount of IR1 forms we fill in and send up to management about the critical state we are in are resolved. We do not get listened to. So all those who are hell bent in slagging us all off come spend a week down here with us or out with our crewes and see what impossibliltys we face everyday. pandorica

8:09pm Tue 15 Jan 13

MSG says...

Why use a picture of Patient Transfer Ambulances at another entrance to the hospital. These are not Emergency ambulances outside A&E. Shocking choice of picture and shame on the Echo for stooping so low!
Why use a picture of Patient Transfer Ambulances at another entrance to the hospital. These are not Emergency ambulances outside A&E. Shocking choice of picture and shame on the Echo for stooping so low! MSG

12:54pm Wed 16 Jan 13

SosF-M says...

I was admitted into DMH on New Years day - not my choice my first port of call was the walk in centre at Dr Piper House. However I was in four nights and one of those nights the nurses were having a horrendous time. The new shift coming on at 7pm soon passed the word around that ambulances were queing all the way around to the Womens Centre and that Durham and James Cook were shut. I totally support the Ambulance service and the NHS but they are simply pressured by demand. Firstly people do not use the service correctly and abuse it for quick free treatment. So the public are to blame for one thing. Secondly the cuts contribute significantly. Far too many patients with far too few nurses and doctors to give anyone the nursing care they need. It isnt their fault they are trying to do their best for everyone.
People need to look at themselves and examine how they utilise these valuable services, they should ask themselves can I do this better without putting a strain on the system. I hate to say it but I think people would consider carefully before ringing for an ambulance if they knew they were going to be charged for it.
I was admitted into DMH on New Years day - not my choice my first port of call was the walk in centre at Dr Piper House. However I was in four nights and one of those nights the nurses were having a horrendous time. The new shift coming on at 7pm soon passed the word around that ambulances were queing all the way around to the Womens Centre and that Durham and James Cook were shut. I totally support the Ambulance service and the NHS but they are simply pressured by demand. Firstly people do not use the service correctly and abuse it for quick free treatment. So the public are to blame for one thing. Secondly the cuts contribute significantly. Far too many patients with far too few nurses and doctors to give anyone the nursing care they need. It isnt their fault they are trying to do their best for everyone. People need to look at themselves and examine how they utilise these valuable services, they should ask themselves can I do this better without putting a strain on the system. I hate to say it but I think people would consider carefully before ringing for an ambulance if they knew they were going to be charged for it. SosF-M

9:09pm Wed 16 Jan 13

spragger says...

Kick the drunks out and there will be plenty of room.
- No one respects ANYTHING that is free. .
Kick the drunks out and there will be plenty of room. - No one respects ANYTHING that is free. . spragger

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