Ambulance handover delays reach record highs at Shropshire's hospitals

Ambulance handover delays at Shropshire's main hospitals have reached record highs while waiting lists continue to soar, a new report has revealed.

The A&E at Princess Royal Hospital in Telford
The A&E at Princess Royal Hospital in Telford

Relentless pressures on the county's emergency departments led to 1,052 ambulances waiting more than an hour to hand over patients during of October – a rise of more than 20 per cent from the previous month.

Meanwhile, the number of patients on waiting lists for routine treatment grew from 34,443 in September to 35,033 the following month.

The details have been revealed in a new report to the board of directors at the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust, which runs Royal Shrewsbury Hospital and Princess Royal Hospital in Telford.

It comes as the hospitals are continuing to care for Covid patients.

In the report to the trust's board, which meets on Thursday, chief operating officer Nigel Lee says significant pressure remained on urgent and emergency care in October, as well as workforce pressures due to Covid related and other absence.

"At times, this has resulted in both emergency departments being very busy, and ambulance handover delays have resulted," said Mr Lee.

"The trust has seen some long waits, albeit mitigated by regular senior clinician checks on the patients, as well as cohorting being used on both sites (cohorting is supported by the ambulance service, with one crew monitoring a number of patients in a suitable location in the emergency department but importantly releasing other crews to attend to calls).

"We fully recognise the risk for the wider community as well as the risk across the hospital sites, and the trust is continuing to look at all possible options to provide swifter offload and capacity internally."

Work is also taking place to try to prevent avoidable trips to A&E where appropriate.

Meanwhile, Mr Lee says demand for elective and cancer services remains high, and during October the trust expanded the range of private sector capacity it will use.

He says in the report: "The level of cancer patients on the list over 62 days has reduced during the month, primarily due to the increased CT capacity.

"For the wider elective backlog, whilst the number of patients over 52 weeks is fairly steady, the numbers reaching 78 weeks and up to 104 weeks is increasing; the trust has a clear trajectory to minimise the number of patients waiting over 104 weeks at the end of March 2022 – the objective is no more than 74.

"We continue to seek options to reduce this further although many of the patients are very specialist in nature."

In an open letter last week,the county's health bosses jointly appealed to the public for their support, anticipating that the winter would be "possibly the most challenging we have ever known".

They say people can help by getting their Covid and flu jabs, following the Covid rules and contacting NHS 111 or visiting NHS online to find the right service in non life-threatening emergencies.

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