Bed-blocking causing delays in ambulance handovers at Ipswich Hospital

Ipswich Hospital is suffering pressures on beds as winter approaches

Ipswich Hospital is suffering pressures on beds as winter approaches - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown/Archant

Patients have been left waiting outside Ipswich Hospital as staff struggle to free up beds inside as winter pressure begins to mount.

A meeting of East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust's board of directors yesterday heard that about "two wards' worth" of patients are waiting to be discharged at the start of each day but a lack of rehabilitation beds and social care is causing delays.

This has had an impact on emergency admissions - and the hospital is likely to be hit even harder as the winter rolls in and the ongoing pandemic continues to add pressure.

Neill Moloney, acting chief executive of ESNEFT

Neill Moloney, acting chief executive of ESNEFT - Credit: Andy Abbott

Neill Moloney, acting chief executive of East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust (ESNEFT), said after the meeting: “The number of people we are treating in our hospitals is increasing and we are seeing more acutely ill patients too.

"This has a huge impact on our A&E departments and means we do have more ambulance delays than we would like.

"However, our teams are working extremely hard to care for everyone who needs our care and treatment in the right place and at the right time so we can get ambulances back on the road as quickly as possible."

EEAST ambulances are having handover delays due to bed pressures

EEAST ambulances are having handover delays due to bed pressures - Credit: EEAST

He added: “ESNEFT is not a domiciliary care provider, which is why we’re working with our partners across the Suffolk and North East Essex Integrated Care System (ICS) to make sure we can get our patients out of hospital quickly and safely.

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"Those discussions are still ongoing, but we are considering alternative solutions to ones we’d usually look at, including the provision of extra beds and adopting different staffing models.”

Additional government funding for the NHS is currently in place to help cover some of the cost of post-discharge recovery and support services.

However, Sarah Noonan, interim director of operations at Ipswich Hospital, said at the meeting: "The challenge is not of funding. It's of capacity."

Meanwhile, latest figures for the East of England Ambulance Service show the number of ambulance handovers completed within 15 minutes at Ipswich Hospital improved during September, rising to 31.6% from 27.2% the previous month.

However, that is still less than a third of handovers being completed within the NHS target time.

At Colchester Hospital, the figure was just 14.8% in September, the same as for August, and in West Suffolk 40.3% of handovers were completed within the target time, slightly down on 41.3% in August.