Patient wait misery at hospital

PATIENTS to wait more than an hour to be admitted to Accident and Emergency at Ipswich Hospital shocking figures reveal today.Between December 21 and January 21 more than eight per cent of the 1,797 ambulances arriving at Ipswich Hospital waited for more than an hour before leaving - keeping trained paramedics waiting in line instead of being back on the road, ready to save lives.

PATIENTS are having to wait more than an hour to be admitted to Accident and Emergency at Ipswich Hospital shocking figures reveal today.

Between December 21 and January 21 more than eight per cent of the 1,797 ambulances arriving at Ipswich Hospital waited for more than an hour before leaving - keeping trained paramedics waiting in line instead of being back on the road, ready to save lives.

The figures also revealed that half of the ambulances had to wait for between 30 minutes and an hour.

Suffolk-based Jon Rapley, regional-chairman of the East of England Ambulance Service's public and patient involvement forum, today said something needed to be done to tackle the turnaround-time problem.

He said: “Patients requiring attention are being left in limbo.

“The primary function of an ambulance is to be invaluable when accidents happen, not to be a mobile holding pen.

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“It is a serious problem. Paramedics are frustrated about it because their job is not to sit in a row of vehicles outside the hospital, it is to be outside responding to 999 calls.”

Mr Rapley said he understood that the problems were caused because hospitals were under pressure to meet government targets of treating all patients within four hours of admission.

Meanwhile Ipswich Hospital said pressure to hit target waiting times for planned operations put extra strains on capacity throughout the hospital.

The turnaround times for ambulances at the hospital were released following a Freedom of Information Request from The Evening Star after the worrying sight of ambulances lining up outside the hospital entrance earlier this year.

They show 25pc of ambulances wait for between 15 and 30 minutes, 50pc for between 30 minutes and one hour, and 8pc for more than an hour.

Some of the conditions treated by paramedics who had a turnaround time of more than an hour included chest pains and breathing problems. Everyone with a life-threatening emergency was seen immediately.

The target turnaround time is 15 minutes or less, including cleaning and restocking a vehicle after a patient has been handed over.

Have you had to wait a long time before being admitted to A&E? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.

The ambulance service's view

ROB Lawrence, the East of England Ambulance Service's chief operating officer in Suffolk, said the turnaround times were worrying because it meant ambulances weren't out on the roads, but he added that the hospital, PCT, social services and ambulance service were working closely together to tackle the problem.

He said: “Where we do have delays it could affect our ability to respond quickly to what could be the next call.

“Excessive delays are a problem. The sooner we get patients in the care of A&E the better.

“We are working to reduce the turnaround delays across the county. We have to work especially with the hospital which requires some good partnership working.

“There are peaks of activity and we need to be able to cope with them.

“We can help by ensuring we have vehicles at the back door to clear the hospital. The solution is a whole-scale solution.

“I really hope we can see the figures come down.”

Mr Lawrence also called on the public to help tackle the problem by “knowing when to dial 999 and when not to dial 999”.

He stressed that not all patients would be sitting in the ambulances but instead could be inside the A&E unit, just under the care of paramedics rather than hospital staff.

And he said the clock started ticking on the hospital's target of treating patients within four-hours 15-minutes after the ambulance was recorded as having got to the hospital.

The hospital's view

JAN Rowsell, spokeswoman for Ipswich Hospital, said: “The hospital was extremely busy during that time.

“We were working very hard to make sure we brought waiting times down for planned treatment.

“What these figures show is the immense pressure on the emergency services, on the hospital and ambulances.

“We are working together so we can eliminate these waits.

“We need to streamline the way patients are seen in the hospital and do it in a better, more efficient way.”

Recently the hospital announced it would be creating a dedicated discharge unit to replace its current discharge lounge, a move designed to tackle bed pressures.

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