Queuing medics at Northampton hospitals ‘lose 11,000 hours a year’

A queue of ambulance crews and patients at Northampton General Hospital on Januray 20, 2014
A queue of ambulance crews and patients at Northampton General Hospital on Januray 20, 2014

Queuing ambulance drivers at Northamptonshire hospitals are wasting about 11,000 hours a year when they could be on call.

Figures obtained by Healthwatch Northamptonshire from East Midlands Ambulance Service show the number of hours spent at county A&Es in excess of the target handover time of 15 minutes.

The data was not complete, but Des Savage, a member of Healthwatch Northamptonshire’s advisory council, said if the figures were extrapolated, about 11,000 hours would have been wasted in 12 months.

Mr Savage said: “This has a bigger knock-on effect than not hitting the four-hour target for emergency patients to be dealt with.

“Remember, this is not a nurse being delayed, its a driver and medic with their ambulance.

“It is a problem with NGH and KGH, not the ambulance service.

“There are ambulances just sitting there and not being used.

“The person I feel sorry for is the one with with a broken hip lying in the road with no ambulance because its stuck at A&E and another has to divert from 20 miles away.”

Matthew Williams, records manager at EMAS, said: “It is indisputable that because of the handover and turnaround delays that our crews experience at all hospitals, it does impact on the percentage of capacity that we operate at.”

The NHS and the hospitals are running seasonal campaigns to reduce the workload in A&E.

NGH said the problem stems from the “unprecedented” numbers of emergency patients.

The hospital now has additional consultants in A&E providing seven-day cover and it plans to increase the number of GPs who provide support during peak times.

Latest Northampton General Hospital Board papers show the number of ambulance handovers exceeding 60 minutes was 53 in November and 79, or more than two per day, in December.

Ambulance crews waited more than the 15 minute target time on 1,485 occasions in November, but that dropped to 1,033 in December.