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Shropshire Star comment: Be mindful of patients in this plan

By Shropshire Star | Opinions | Published:

It is a national scandal that patients are left stranded in the back of ambulances for hours because hospitals don’t have the resources available to deal with them.

You would not expect this type of situation to occur in third world countries, let alone in our NHS.

Sadly the spectre of ambulances queuing outside hospitals has become widespread, and it is no surprise to see that various measures to address the issue are being considered.

West Midlands Ambulance Service (WMAS) has come up with a novel idea: take patients to hospitals with the shortest waiting times rather than the nearest one geographically.

On one hand it seems like common sense.

Leaving elderly or vulnerable patients stuck in the back of an ambulance outside a hospital for a couple of hours puts them at risk of serious harm.

Why not find out which hospitals have spare capacity, and take them there instead?

We know that some hospitals across the West Midlands are coping better than others with emergency department pressures.

In a perfect world, sharing the burden would appear to be a good move.

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But things are not that simple, and excessive handover rates are just one of a number of key problems that our hospitals are having to deal with.

For example, does it really increase patient safety if someone from Wolverhampton is hauled all the way over to Royal Stoke University Hospital?

There may well be extra capacity available there to deal with A&E patients, but it is questionable how much time the extra journey will save.

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The NHS must never go down the route of treating people like commodities. When it comes to board level decisions, patient safety must always be paramount.

Reducing handover times is not just a question of throwing money at hospitals to increase capacity.

The issue is a direct consequence of bed blocking, which often sees patients kept in hospital for weeks after they should have been released.

There needs to be a holistic approach to the myriad of issues currently blighting our NHS. We will be watching with great interest to see if the WMAS scheme has positive results in terms of reduced handover times.

Patients must always come first.

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