Ambulances facing ‘horrendous’ delays at hospitals across Nottinghamshire and East Midlands region

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Leaders at East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS) say an ‘unacceptable’ pattern of ambulances spending hours waiting outside emergency departments to discharge patients is hampering response times.

Nottinghamshire NHS is currently in a ‘critical incident’, meaning hospitals are unable to cope with the rising numbers of patients coming through emergency departments.

Richard Henderson, EMAS chief executive, said the service is also anticipating an ‘extremely challenging winter’.

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The service’s latest board meeting heard that in September, 4,800 hours were lost due to paramedics waiting outside hospitals to hand over patients, 4,000 more than September 2021.

The headquarters of East Midlands Ambulance Service NHS Trust, in Nottingham.The headquarters of East Midlands Ambulance Service NHS Trust, in Nottingham.
The headquarters of East Midlands Ambulance Service NHS Trust, in Nottingham.

Nicola Bramhall, EMAS director of quality improvement and patient safety, said the service, which covers Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Rutland, Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire, is seeing ‘unprecedented levels’ of ‘serious incidents’, which can lead to the death of a patient.

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Ten serious incidents were raised in September, six of which were related to a delayed ambulance response.

Ms Bramhall said: “Throughout the year, we’ve reported 48 serious incidents, with 65 per cent relating to delayed response.

"Over half of those are in Lincolnshire.

“Last year in the same period, we reported 28.

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“We have to remember at the end of those stories is a family grieving the loss of a loved one and staff who feel morally injured they are unable to get there and deliver care.”

Mr Henderson said: “This is not only a significant issue for our patients, but for our workforce, where people are spending hours with patients in the backs of ambulances outside A&E departments, which is unacceptable.

“Our colleagues in control rooms are having to deal with patients over the phone where we may not have an ambulance immediately available and that is extremely stressful and challenging.”

Ben Holdaway, EMAS director of operations, said handover delays are now being seen across the region, whereas they were formerly contained within Leicestershire and Lincolnshire.

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He said: “For the first 18 days of September, we were averaging to lose 390 hours a day.

“However, from September 18, we were losing 710 hours a day on average.

"If we continue on the trend we will see just short of 17,000 hours lost this month to hospital delays.

“Hospitals are a huge challenge.

"Under half of what we attend is going to emergency departments, yet we have these horrendous delays.”