AMBULANCE bosses in the region say they are optimistic that delays in handing over patients outside hospital A&E departments will soon ease.

The reassurance came after a summit meeting at the North East Ambulance Services Newcastle headquarters attended by senior managers from the regions hospitals and commissioning GPs.

The meeting was called because of mounting problems caused by delays in ambulances being able to hand over their patients to doctors and nurses at A&E departments in the region.

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The Northern Echo has reported that during December there were 87 occasions when NEAS ambulances queued for more than two hours before transfers could take place.

In another 626 occasions in the same period ambulances were delayed for between one and two hours - with as many as 14 vehicles queuing at one time.

But following the meeting Paul Liversidge, director of operations for NEAS, said: "Today's meeting brought everyone under one roof to discuss what changes or improvements to practise we could all make within the NHS to try and alleviate the situation.

"The meeting was extremely constructive and resulted in a number of short and long term plans for all the bodies in attendance which we hope will have an impact.

"NHS services across the North East remain among the best in the country. There is a great joint will among all of the organisations who attended today's event, and I'm optimistic that we will see some improvement in handover times."

One suggestion is that the ambulance contact centre and front-line paramedics should divert callers to alternative care settings, such as walk-in urgent care centres, more often, NEAS officials said the public can also help by only making 999 calls for genuine medical emergencies.