Crunch meeting held today to solve crisis of ambulance queuing

The Northern Echo: PROBLEM AREA: Ambulances outside The James Cook University Hospital PROBLEM AREA: Ambulances outside The James Cook University Hospital

AMBULANCE bosses are holding a crunch meeting today with health chiefs to tackle a "whole system problem"  - which is forcing its ambulances to queue for hours outside hospitals before they are able to transfer patients.

North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) has revealed it narrowly failed to meet its national target to respond to 75 per cent of life-threatening calls within eight minutes during the quarter ending December 31.

Last month The Northern Echo reported that paramedics were warning it was a matter of time before the delays result in a patient's death.

The latest NEAS figures for the month of December reveal the extent of the problem:

* Ambulances were left to queue 87 times for more than two hours before patients could be transfered into hospital.

* On 626 occasions ambulances queued for between one and two hours.

* As many as 14 NEAS ambulances have been left to queue outside hospitals on several occasions.

* The longest ambulance queues have been recorded at the University Hospital of North Durham, James Cook University Hospital, Middlesbrough and Sunderland Royal Hospital.

The crisis is being blamed on a lack of frontline clinical staff, a shortage of hospital beds and a sharp rise in the number of winter emergency admissions - resulting in ambulances being left to queue outside the region's accident and emergency departments.

NEAS is holding a summit today at its Newcastle HQ to tackle the growing problem of ambulances arriving to find they cannot transfer their patients quickly.

It warns a combination of handover delays and an increasing number of 999 calls make it more difficult to meet the national target of responding to 75 per cent of life threatening calls within eight minutes.

A report into response times by NEAS said: "There have been instances of up to 14 ambulances queuing at a hospital waiting for handover.

"This has happened in each Primary Care Trust cluster but most frequently at University Hospital of North Durham, City Hospitals Sunderland and James Cook University Hospital."

It said that the situation was made worse by an increasing number of hospital diverts, where ambulances are sent from one hospital to another during very busy times because of a shortage of beds.

The summit will involve representatives from every acute NHS hospital in the region, leading GP commissioners and the Strategic Health Authority.

The Department of Health has given NEAS an extra £1m to pay for a variety of initiatives to try and improve the situation.

These include hiring more doctors to vet 999 calls to ensure ambulances are only sent to genuine emergencies, encouraging the use of more community first responders and contracting a private agency to provide more doctors and nurses to provide greater clinical support for ambulance crews.

Glenn Turp, Royal College of Nursing regional director said: "The problem appears to be across the region, but fundamentally it is about resources.

"If you don't have sufficient front-line clinical staff to manage the hand-over, and you don't have the beds and equipment to care for the patients, this is the result.

"The Government needs to immediately halt it's misguided cost-cutting initiative, and start being honest about how much resource is needed to deliver a high quality service that doesn't leave patients waiting for hours in ambulances outside of hospitals. It's simply not acceptable."

Despite narrowly missing its response target for life threatening calls for the quarter ending December 31, NEAS bosses predict they will meet the national target for the last quarter of 2012-13.

A report by the NHS Confederation published in June last year concluded  significant delays of more than 60 minutes were regarded as unacceptable.

Comments (6)

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11:00am Tue 5 Feb 13

Five 0 says...

The government needs to closely look into NEAS.
It is well known that the Newcastle call centre downgrades calls if the patient can speak.
They staff are are manipulating cases.
The more questions they can ask delays an ambulance.
Times are now not started from the point of call but when an ambulance is dispatched. Its called working the system.
The HQ staff are told to ask people with paitents to make their own way to hospital.
Most callers become upset at this suggestion, and if the caller disputes this they call is listed as abusive and downgraded for 30 miuntes or longer until police can attend.
NEAS are taking public money but are conning the public with the many questions they ask callers.
Questions should be asked as to why NEAS now use a system which logs crews as reaching a patients house when they havent even arrived in the road?
The ambulance tracking system NEAS uses works on an automated postcode system.
The service is failing the public.
The government needs to closely look into NEAS. It is well known that the Newcastle call centre downgrades calls if the patient can speak. They staff are are manipulating cases. The more questions they can ask delays an ambulance. Times are now not started from the point of call but when an ambulance is dispatched. Its called working the system. The HQ staff are told to ask people with paitents to make their own way to hospital. Most callers become upset at this suggestion, and if the caller disputes this they call is listed as abusive and downgraded for 30 miuntes or longer until police can attend. NEAS are taking public money but are conning the public with the many questions they ask callers. Questions should be asked as to why NEAS now use a system which logs crews as reaching a patients house when they havent even arrived in the road? The ambulance tracking system NEAS uses works on an automated postcode system. The service is failing the public. Five 0

3:22pm Tue 5 Feb 13

HH1954 says...

You can't keep closing A & E Departments and not expect queues to develop!
Patients have to go somewhere for treatment.
You can't keep closing A & E Departments and not expect queues to develop! Patients have to go somewhere for treatment. HH1954

5:15pm Tue 5 Feb 13

stevegg says...

Largest ever UK population, hundreds of thousands immigrants waiting to get in, prisons at bursting point; hundreds of thousands of criminals given soft touch sentances; offenders rights outweighing victims rights; no power to deport foreign criminals thanks to human rights; human rights we were promised by Cameron would be replaced by UK derived bill of rights; welfare payments out of control; a ludicrous welfare system where you get paid more to sit on long term benefits than work; huge defence cuts, increasing terrorists threats, smallest army in over 200 years, A&E closures; fewer ambulances; a global free for all on our NHS and benefits system; 20% police cuts, 12000 fewer police; the rich get a tax break; bankers, chief executives and politicians who have no shame and are rewarded for failure; a growing stockpile of nuclear waste that no one knows what to with - welcome to UK 2013!
Largest ever UK population, hundreds of thousands immigrants waiting to get in, prisons at bursting point; hundreds of thousands of criminals given soft touch sentances; offenders rights outweighing victims rights; no power to deport foreign criminals thanks to human rights; human rights we were promised by Cameron would be replaced by UK derived bill of rights; welfare payments out of control; a ludicrous welfare system where you get paid more to sit on long term benefits than work; huge defence cuts, increasing terrorists threats, smallest army in over 200 years, A&E closures; fewer ambulances; a global free for all on our NHS and benefits system; 20% police cuts, 12000 fewer police; the rich get a tax break; bankers, chief executives and politicians who have no shame and are rewarded for failure; a growing stockpile of nuclear waste that no one knows what to with - welcome to UK 2013! stevegg

9:06pm Tue 5 Feb 13

c17ope says...

I have recently had to complain about the NEAS due to a member of the public i found who was in need of prompt medical treatment due to not breathing when i arrived on the scene... It took the RRV 28mins to get to us and the Ambulance 42 mins... i also beleive this has been recorded from when the units were sent to us and not from when the call was made... We had to talk to two call staff operators as they could not find our location (even though it was under a railway bridge) and the bridge number the road name were given. i sent a letter into NEAS to complain about this and was told it would be 30 days maximum before i would here any news about my complaint. (there web site states 25 days) after 37 days i had to send an e-mail via my MP to prompt them about my case. when two days later i recived a letter stating two staff need traing and they were sorry... the letter was rushed as it had spelling mistakes and did not show any real evidence why tgis had happened. I have now complained about the letter aswell as the response i had with a number of questions which i hope they will answer shortly.. I know County Durham has its own budget but why are we sending our area Amkbulances to cover South Tyneside Area. when we need them for us... We pay our council tax in which a part i would imagine goes to this... WE ARE LOOSING "OUR NHS"
I have recently had to complain about the NEAS due to a member of the public i found who was in need of prompt medical treatment due to not breathing when i arrived on the scene... It took the RRV 28mins to get to us and the Ambulance 42 mins... i also beleive this has been recorded from when the units were sent to us and not from when the call was made... We had to talk to two call staff operators as they could not find our location (even though it was under a railway bridge) and the bridge number the road name were given. i sent a letter into NEAS to complain about this and was told it would be 30 days maximum before i would here any news about my complaint. (there web site states 25 days) after 37 days i had to send an e-mail via my MP to prompt them about my case. when two days later i recived a letter stating two staff need traing and they were sorry... the letter was rushed as it had spelling mistakes and did not show any real evidence why tgis had happened. I have now complained about the letter aswell as the response i had with a number of questions which i hope they will answer shortly.. I know County Durham has its own budget but why are we sending our area Amkbulances to cover South Tyneside Area. when we need them for us... We pay our council tax in which a part i would imagine goes to this... WE ARE LOOSING "OUR NHS" c17ope

9:15pm Tue 5 Feb 13

always right says...

Unbelievable. Sounds like stevegg has come up with the correct reason though !!.
Unbelievable. Sounds like stevegg has come up with the correct reason though !!. always right

9:15pm Tue 5 Feb 13

always right says...

Unbelievable. Sounds like stevegg has come up with the correct reason though !!.
Unbelievable. Sounds like stevegg has come up with the correct reason though !!. always right

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