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Delay in handing over ambulances puts 57,000 patients at risk of harm, report warns




Delays in handing over patients to A&E teams resulted in thousands of lives being lost in December, according to a new report.

The Association of Ambulance Chief Executives (AACE) said 6,000 people suffered “serious harm” as a result of ambulances arriving at the doorsteps of emergency departments last month for more than an hour.

According to a new report from AACE, 57,000 people experienced “potential harm”, including delays in handing out ambulances, across England in December.

It added: “Delays in prolonged patient handovers reached unprecedented levels in December, with losses doubling to 227,000 hours compared to December 2021.”


Official NHS data shows the proportion of ambulance patients waiting at least 30 minutes to be assigned to A&E teams was 44% in the week between Christmas and the New Year – the highest on record.

According to NHS England, around 26% of ambulances waited longer than an hour in the week ending 1 January.

The AACE report said some 36,000 patients were delayed at least two hours, while 23,000 waited more than three.


It says the average handover time almost doubled in the past year – from 29 minutes in December 2021 to 55 minutes in December 2022.

Martin Flaherty, Managing Director of AACE, said: “Our December 2022 data for handover delays in hospital emergency departments shows some of the worst figures we have ever recorded and clearly underlines the extent to which these dangerous, unsafe and Not enough is being done for eradication. harmful events.

“Nationally, the average handover time has almost doubled over the last 12 months, from 29 minutes in December 2021 to 55 minutes in December 2022.


“However, it is particularly worrying that long delays – which persist beyond one, two and three hours – reached unprecedented levels in December.

“The impact on patients is significant and we estimate that in December 2022, approximately 57,000 patients experienced potential harm as a result of prolonged handover delays, of whom approximately 6,000 suffered serious harm.

“This does not take into account patients in the community who we were unable to attend due to resources in local emergency departments, so the actual figure is likely to be much higher.

“We are also well aware of how difficult these current working conditions are for ambulance service staff and the significant impact this is having on their mental health and wellbeing.

“We know there are good examples of hospitals who are managing their handover delay effectively, and we are doing everything we can to help by sharing best practice when it does happen, but now we are working on this important It is time for firm leadership on the issue if we are to reduce and eliminate these tremendously damaging delays.

Commenting on the report, Sarah Gorton, head of health at the union Unison, said: “Under government oversight, the ambulance service has barely coped all year round, being under pressure during the winter. No wonder people are leaving faster than new recruits are being hired.

“A better deal on wages and a serious plan to deal with the staff shortage can’t come soon enough.”

The NHS has said it faced a “twindemic” of flu and Covid, while also struggling to discharge medically fit patients from hospital into social care.

A spokesman for the Health Service in England said: “Last month the NHS responded to more than 100,000 of the most serious emergency ambulance call-outs, as well as more than one million 999 calls – both the highest totals on record for December , as demand increased due to the ‘twindemic’ of flu and COVID-19.

“NHS staff are working hard to reach patients as quickly as possible and it is important that the public continues to call 999 in life-threatening emergencies, as well as access NHS 111 online for other health needs Where they will receive the best clinical advice on the next steps to take.”

Chris Hopson, chief strategy officer for NHS England, told the House of Commons Health and Social Care Committee on Tuesday: “We prepared for this winter more than we prepared for it before.

“The issue was always going to be this winter, the extent to which we saw the spread of both Covid and flu and the extent to which they combined.”

He said that on 29 December, more than a quarter of NHS beds were occupied by people with flu, Covid or people who needed to be discharged to social care.

A senior doctor told the committee that December was “the worst ever” in emergency departments.

Dr Adrian Boyle, president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said: “We’ve certainly had the worst December ever – if you look at the performance figures on every metric, what happened in December was dreadful.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “We are taking action to improve access to urgent and emergency care – including investing up to £250 million to free up hospital beds, reduce pressure on A&E and This includes elimination of delays in handing over patients from ambulances.

“This is on top of £500 million to create the equivalent of 7,000 more beds, as well as setting up 24/7 data-driven system control centers in every local area to accelerate the safe discharge of patients and manage demand and capacity. is on

“Hours due to delays in handing over ambulances fell by more than 61% in the week ending 15 January, the lowest figure so far this winter, and the NHS will soon introduce urgent and emergency services to reduce waiting times for patients. Will prepare a detailed recovery plan for care.”

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