Long wait times lead to rise in serious incidents at Nottinghamshire ambulance service

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East Midlands Ambulance Service recorded 100 serious incidents last year – most of which were attributed to long waiting times for patients.

EMAS recorded the figure in the year from April 2022-March 2023, compared with 74 in the previous 12 months. Serious incidents are described as “acts or omissions in care that result in; unexpected or avoidable death, unexpected or avoidable injury resulting in serious harm”.

The incidents are reported and investigated to “allow learning and improvement” within EMAS, which covers Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Rutland, Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire.

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At the latest EMAS board meeting on April 4, one non-executive director said “one serious incident is too many”.

East Midlands Ambulance Service headquarters.East Midlands Ambulance Service headquarters.
East Midlands Ambulance Service headquarters.

There were nine serious incidents reported in February and 17 in March 2023.

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Richard Henderson, EMAS chief executive, said the service is “still carrying the greater share of the risk which is leading to patients coming to harm as a direct result of these delays”.

Nationally, pressures on available beds have seen ambulances queueing outside hospitals during long waits to hand over patients.

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This is largely due to patient flow problems through hospitals where there are often hundreds of patients who are medically fit for discharge, but cannot leave because there is no space for them in the social care system.

Mr Henderson told the meeting: “Sadly, we did hit 100 serious incidents last year which was in many incidents directly attributed to prolonged waits due to the pressures.

“I am pleased to say in the early days we are seeing some signs of improvement in performance.

“When we talk about handover delays, there are huge improvements from the dire position that we saw [last year].

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“We need to focus on what is in our control. I am confident that we will start seeing an improvement as we move through this year.”

Perminder Heer, non-executive director, said: “One serious incident is too many, but we finished the year with more than 100 serious incidents.

“The numbers are not deteriorating at all. The majority of them remain as a result of delayed responses.”

Roger Watson, EMAS paramedic and deputy director of clinical quality, said: “They are all being investigated.

“We are seeing a decrease, they have gone down steadily through March to lower numbers.

“The trend is still there but we are on top of it.”