Probe into ambulance queue at hospital

EMERGENCY procedures at Ipswich Hospital are to be reviewed today after ambulance staff were forced to help man an emergency clinic in a bid to free-up ambulances.

EMERGENCY procedures at Ipswich Hospital are to be reviewed today after ambulance staff were forced to help man an emergency clinic in a bid to free-up ambulances.

Ipswich Hospital's Patient and Public Involvement Forum today revealed it will scrutinise the hospital's handling of emergency services when patient demand is high.

The announcement follows news that patients being delivered to Ipswich Hospital on Sunday, October 10, were initially forced to wait in ambulances before receiving hospital treatment.

Because the A&E department was busy some patients were later unloaded from ambulances and put in a department which usually serves as the hospital's fracture clinic.

An ambulance officer stayed with the patients until they could be admitted to enable the delayed ambulances to leave the hospital and respond to other calls.

The East Anglian Ambulance NHS Trust has confirmed ambulances were delayed for as much as half an hour while they waited at the hospital.

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A spokesman for the trust said the problem was most severe in the early afternoon.

"The earlier ambulances, the ones that were there at about 12.30pm, were delayed for about half an hour," he said.

The spokesman said the decision was taken to open the fracture clinic at about 2pm.

While this was happening ambulances from other areas were dispatched to cover for the delayed vehicles and the ambulance trust managed to maintain its average response times.

"One of our ambulance officers manned the area, looking after the patients, letting the ambulances out," the spokesman said.

Ipswich Hospital's head of communications Jan Rowsell said the situation faced on October 10 was one encountered by hospitals throughout the country and stressed Ipswich Hospital had "immense pressure on beds".

"We have a huge pressure on our beds because we're exceptionally busy," she said.

Ms Rowsell said that while the patients were placed in the fracture clinic they would have been closely monitored.

"If A&E is exceptionally busy it would mean we have lots and lots of patients actually going through the system," she said.

"The paramedics and senior nursing staff would make the decision who needs to be seen first.

"Patients are never left on their own. They're not placed in an area that isn't a clinical area and left."

The ambulance trust has revealed its staff are instructed to consider the option of opening the fracture clinic in circumstances where ambulances are delayed.

"It's become a possible contingency plan," the ambulance trust spokesman said.

"If we know there's a problem materialising then it's something the officers on duty at the time, in agreement with the hospital, can implement if it needs to be implemented.

"It's never an ideal situation but we have to manage it as best we can with the hospital."

He added: "It happens less now than it used to."

Lorraine Baker from Ipswich Hospital's Patient and Public Involvement Forum said talks would be held with both the hospital and ambulance trusts to determine if the policies dealing with times of high demand are adequate.

"While this situation which occurred on October 10 was not ideal the emergency procedures which have been put in place appeared to work on that occasions," she said.

"We understand this was just a short period of time.

"The forum will now be studying the policies and having discussions with the hospital and the ambulance trust to see if any changes need to be made."

Ms Rowsell said it was hoped the opening of a £1.2million acute medical unit at Ipswich Hospital in mid-November would relieve pressure on the hospital's A&E services.

Were you among those placed in the fracture clinic on October 10? Write in to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.