Ambulance delays impact on number of patients coming to ‘harm’, says East of England Ambulance Service Trust boss

The delays were highlighted to a meeting of the EEAST board on Wednesday

Thursday, 13th January 2022, 2:54 pm

The impact of ambulance delays on patient health has been highlighted to a meeting of the East of England Ambulance Service Trust (EEAST).

Three out of four ambulances – 75 per cent – have been waiting longer than the target 15 minutes to handover patients for hospital care across the region.

And one in seven – that’s 14 per cent – have been waiting in excess of an hour.

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The delays were highlighted to a meeting of the EEAST board on Wednesday, January 12.

In a written report, chief executive Tom Abell said handover delays continued “to impact on the number of patients who had come to harm”.

Meanwhile data reported to the board later in the meeting, suggested there had been 15 ‘serious incidents’ in November where ‘delayed attendances’ led to patient harm.

Addressing the board meeting on Wednesday, Mr Abell said: “We are obviously – alongside all other ambulance services – been under really significant pressure from a number of different angles.

“So clearly we have seen a significant activity increase over the course of the autumn and significant demand from our communities.

“In the last month or two we have also seen the impact of the Omicron wave of Covid which has seen an increased level of absence within our workforce – people have been self isolating or catching Covid

“And secondly the knock-on impact has had in the wider health and care system – and so the impact on hospital handover delays.

“Myself and the whole team have been working hard in terms of engaging with system partners to understand what it is that we can do to support handover delays and support the resilience of the urgent and emergency care system over this period of time.

“I think all of our people have been absolutely fantastic in terms of the resilience they have shown and willingness to help and support the delivery of our core services and the care to our communities.”

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Board members were told that steps taken by EEAST to improve ‘resilience’ have already included the introduction of ‘cohorting teams’ to support hospitals.

And it was reported that more than 100 more call handlers have been recruited and advanced paramedics are in control rooms to prioritise patients and to signpost alternative pathways.

Nevertheless, data reported to the Trust board later in the meeting recorded 15 ‘serious incidents’ in November where ‘delayed attendances’ led to patient harm.

No further detail relating to the specific impact of the ambulance delays is given.

However they were among 21 ‘serious incidents’ investigated by the Trust, that were recorded in November.

According to the report, those 21 ‘serious incidents’ also included one where a crew had waited away from the scene because of a ‘risk marker’ on the patient’s address. When they did attend the patient had ‘successfully completed suicide’.

On another occasion, a patient with low oxygen saturation was not taken to hospital – but later required admission to Intensive Care.

And a further patient with Covid-19 was not taken to hospital – but later required ICE treatment.

It was also reported that a patient injured a leg while getting into the back of an ambulance – and a patient who was not taken to hospital, later died.

In a further incident, the delivery of a ‘shock’ during the resuscitation of a patient in cardiac arrest was delayed.