Top level summit to be held over Shropshire ambulance handover crisis

A two-stage summit will be held on how to solve Shropshire's ambulance handover crisis, health chiefs have confirmed.

The summit will look at how to tackle the current ambulance handover crisis
The summit will look at how to tackle the current ambulance handover crisis

For several months ambulance response times in the county have been severely impacted by the length of time crews have spent waiting to hand patients over at hospitals.

The situation has left ambulances stationary and unable to answer new calls, with some patients waiting hours for help.

West Midlands Ambulance Service (WMAS) has estimated that every day around half of all ambulances on shift in the county are unable to respond to incidents because they are queueing, waiting to hand patients over to hospitals.

Following the meeting it has been confirmed that a 'two-part summit' will take place – looking at how to solve the current problems.

One of the county's most senior health officials, Simon Whitehouse, interim chief executive designate of NHS Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin, said there was an acceptance from all concerned that improvements are required.

He said: “We had an open and honest conversation with the minister for health and our local MPs at which we talked about the challenges facing our health and care system.

“There is no one magic solution to the issues confronting us, and no partner working on their own can solve the problems.

"There is a collective commitment to improve the current situation and all partners acknowledge that some of the experiences that local people are dealing with is not what any of us would want it to be.

“We have agreed with the local MPs to have a two-part summit that will focus on the current challenges with ambulance handover delays.

"This will be co-chaired by Sir Neil McKay, chair designate of NHS Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin, and Anthony Marsh, chief executive of West Midland Ambulance Service.

"This will bring a focus to the current performance challenges, the resident experiences and look to develop solutions as we start our planning work for the winter of 2022/23."

Mr Whitehouse said the focus would be on three areas in efforts to improve.

They are 'community-based initiatives to better support people in their own homes', 'changes to processes and systems that improve the patient journey through hospital', and 'discharge out of hospital and community/social care support'.

He added: "Addressing these three areas together will enable us to help more people stay well in their own homes for longer, and ensure that those who do need acute care can access it in a timely fashion.

“We have agreed to hold a further summit meeting to which the Minister of State for Health has been invited.”

Earlier this week WMAS itself revealed the extent of the issues faced by staff and patients.

Mr Marsh said: "This has been the most difficult period I have ever known in the ambulance service."

In a briefing he confirmed that one patient had waited for 23 hours to be handed over by ambulance staff to a hospital in the region during April.

In total, across the West Midlands region 5,988 patients waited for more than four hours to be handed over during March – compared to 1,130 in March last year.

The trust's director of nursing, Mark Docherty, pulled no punches describing the severity of the situation, saying: "The reality is that patients are coming to harm every day due to the handover delays and no-one can now doubt that."

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