Nine-hour wait for ambulance crew as handover delays double at Shropshire A&Es

Significant pressures on the county's emergency services led to ambulance crews facing waits of up to nine hours and 45 minutes to handover patients at Shropshire's hospitals last month, new figures show.

Royal Shrewsbury Hospital
Royal Shrewsbury Hospital

Ambulance chiefs say that delays are now twice as bad as January – when the country was in the worst phase of Covid – while hospital bosses have admitted they are still battling huge demands in A&E.

West Midlands Ambulance Service (WMAS) took 3,290 patients to either Royal Shrewsbury Hospital or Princess Royal Hospital in Telford during September.

A report to the county's joint health overview and scrutiny committee says the longest handover time at RSH was nine hours and 45 minutes and at PRH was just over seven hours.

On average, waits were around one hour and 44 minutes at RSH and 42 minutes at PRH.

NHS rules state it should take no longer than 15 minutes – but figures show this was breached almost 80 per cent of the time last month, when more than 1,000 ambulances faced waits of over an hour.

WMAS has accepted that ambulance response times in the county are not good enough, although it says the problems are largely due to delays in handovers.

Murray MacGregor, spokesman for WMAS, said: "While we have a great deal of sympathy with the staff at RSH who are also seeing a large increase in demand, are still working to Covid-19 restrictions and are trying to catch up with elective operations that were cancelled due to the pandemic, such delays have a massively detrimental impact on our ability to get to patients in a timely manner.

"Solving the issue of handover delays would have the single biggest impact on response times.

"What is notable is that delays are now twice as bad as January when the country was supposedly in the worst phase of Covid-19."

During a recent meeting of Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust's board, chief operating officer Nigel Lee told members that demand on A&E and urgent care "remains huge".

He said: "We've got significant pressures at the front door manifesting often in ambulance handover delays and we've seen a real significant pressure in that regard. We have seen some really significant delays.

"The team are working really hard to look at options. We often cohort patients working with the ambulance service inside the A&E.

"They may not come off the clock in terms of the wait but it's a much safer environment. Our A&E teams are working closely to make sure we are clinically prioritising those patients."

Health campaigners have also spoken about ambulances queuing at PRH and RSH in recent days.

Shropshire Defend Our NHS claims that "unless the Government comes up with some coherent solutions, this will be the bleakest winter the NHS has faced for a very, very long time".

It comes as the joint committee will meet on Thursday to scrutinise the closure of four community ambulance stations.

WMAS has closed its community ambulance stations at Bridgnorth, Oswestry, Craven Arms, and Market Drayton without consultation.

The move has sparked concerns from residents and councillors, but WMAS has insisted it will lead to a better service for the county.

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