Work to resolve ambulance delays at Shropshire hospitals paused due to emergency pressures

Work to try to resolve issues around ambulances facing long waits to handover patients at Shropshire's main hospitals has been paused due to emergency pressures but will restart as soon as possible, health chiefs say.

Ambulances waiting outside Princess Royal Hospital in Telford. Photo: Dave Hanley
Ambulances waiting outside Princess Royal Hospital in Telford. Photo: Dave Hanley

Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin Clinical Commissioning Groups' governance board was told it continues to be a challenge, together with 12-hour trolley waits, but the NHS 111 First policy was starting to help redirect appropriate patients away from A&E.

Both hospitals, run by the Shrewsbury & Telford Hospital NHS Trust (SaTH), have also seen significant increases in the number of Covid cases in recent weeks, putting further strain on an already stretched workforce.

Dr Julie Davies, director of performance for the CCGs, said: "The over-hour ambulance delays continue to be a challenge.

"At the moment when we have high density of ambulances attending we are still seeing occasions where we are having 12 hour breaches and over hour ambulance delays which are all linked because of the demand of the patients coming into the department.

"We had a regular operational meeting between the whole system, so all providers including community and SaTH and the CCGs and the ambulance service to work on this.

"It was one of the things that was paused because of the pandemic. We had literally just restarted it and that's again been paused because the operational staff within SaTH and the ambulance service aren't available to continue that.

Significant

"Again we are seeing over hour ambulance delays across the region, again Shrewsbury and Telford we have had our challenges. I don't think we've been anywhere near the worst.

"I've seen significant over-hour ambulance delays in hospitals that we've never seen it as, over recent weeks, and that is purely volume related."

She added: "That is still at the forefront of our mind and the moment we are able to re-engage with our operational colleagues in the ambulance service to continue to focus on that we will do so."

National guidance says patients arriving at an emergency department by ambulance must be handed over to the care of A&E staff within 15 minutes.

In November, SaTH reported 251 ambulance handover delays of over one hour, with 72 per cent of these occurring at RSH.

There were also 39 patients who faced trolley waits of more than 12 hours at Shropshire's A&Es in the same month.

The time covers the period when a decision has been made to admit a patient to admission.

The NHS 111 First policy was also launched in Shropshire towards the end of last year, which urges patients to call NHS 111 first rather than walk in to Shropshire’s A&E departments.

Dr Davies said: "Although it's still quite early days and the numbers are quite small, it is definitely having the required impact of directing appropriate patients away from the emergency departments, particularly into increased booked appointments into the urgent treatment centres and a small number of primary care where appropriate."

SaTH's chief operating officer Nigel Lee has reiterated a plea he made last week for people to only use hospital services where necessary.

He also said that all patients waiting in ambulances are assessed by a senior doctor.

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