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Northumbria reassures patients, public and staff on ambulance handover delays

Monday, 31 October, 2016
Northumbria reassures patients, public and staff on ambulance handover delays

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust has today reassured staff, patients and the public on the extensive work taking place to improve the efficiency of ambulance handovers at the new Northumbria hospital in Cramlington.

Since transforming emergency care across Northumberland and North Tyneside last year, the Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital is now the region’s largest receiving emergency department with over 3,500 ambulance arrivals every month and more than 100 crews arriving every single day – more than any other North East hospital.

In the 12 months since opening the new Northumbria hospital, many paramedic crews have had to wait longer than 15 minutes before being able to safely hand over their patients to hospital staff.  In the past year, on average, only around 70 percent of recorded ambulance handovers were made within 15 minutes of arrival, with 90 per cent made within 30 minutes.

In the year prior to the emergency care changes across Northumberland and North Tyneside, over 80 per cent of all recorded ambulance handovers at Northumbria Healthcare were made within 15 minutes and 95 per cent within 30 minutes. 

Like all parts of the NHS and every other North East hospital, the trust has always experienced some level of ambulance handover delays, especially during times of peak demand and surges in activity.  The trust has, however, acknowledged and apologised for any frustrations felt by patients, paramedics and other staff who have experienced any delay when arriving at the new Northumbria hospital.

Chief executive Mr David Evans said: “By far one of the biggest challenges we have faced since transforming emergency care has been in relation to ambulance handovers and I want to reassure all stakeholders we are absolutely committed to putting this right.

“On behalf of the trust I sincerely apologise to any patients and indeed to paramedic colleagues and our own staff, who I have no doubt will have felt very frustrated.  Our priority must always be to make sure patients are safely managed when they arrive with us and in times of surge this has meant longer delays than usual for ambulance staff.  We are working very hard to improve the handover process to make this as swift as possible, especially as we head into winter.

“Change in the NHS is not easy and we must not lose sight of the major successes of our new Northumbria hospital.  There is no question that bringing our three emergency care streams onto one site was absolutely the right thing to do.  Despite the challenges we have faced with ambulance handovers, all of our other quality measures tell us that our patients are, without question,  benefitting from the specialist expertise which we now have available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”

Northumbria Healthcare is working closely with the North East Ambulance Service on a number of measures to improve the time it takes for paramedics to handover patients.  Recent work within the emergency department to improve the flow of patients is starting to have a noticeable impact in reducing queues and the time taken to handover care.   Multiple other actions are also underway including:

·         clinical advice lines for paramedics to call ahead and speak to consultants and senior triage on arrival

·         ensuring ambulance crews are aware of when patients could be taken directly urgent care centres at Wansbeck, Hexham and North Tyneside hospitals

·         providing direct access for paramedics to admit patients directly to certain departments within The Northumbria

In the year since opening the new Northumbria hospital, like the rest of the NHS, Northumbria Healthcare has also experienced an unprecedented increase in demand for urgent and emergency care services.   In 12 months alone, the trust has recorded almost a 20 per cent increase in people using urgent and emergency care services, equating to 25,000 more attendances, adding to the pressures being felt by busy ambulance and emergency care teams.

Despite this, Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust remains one of a few trusts nationally and regionally, which has continued to meet national standards around A&E performance with over 95 per cent of patients still being seen within four hours of arrival.

Chief executive David Evans has also praised all staff for their tremendous efforts and unwavering commitment to deliver high quality patient care during an exceptionally busy time

He said:  “The increase in activity we have seen across the whole NHS in recent years has been beyond all expectation.  Staff in all parts of our system – not only at Northumbria but amongst the wider local NHS – have taken these challenges in their stride, as the always do. 

“As we approach winter, I would also call upon the public to really think about how they access NHS services and whether they really need to use urgent and emergency care services – we all have a responsibility for using the system wisely and making sure emergency teams are free to care for those who are seriously ill.”

The new model of emergency care at Northumbria healthcare has received high praise from patients using the service.  Since the new Northumbria Hospital opened, 9 out of 10 emergency patients have rated their experience at Cramlington as good, very good or excellent and 98 per cent of inpatients are likely or highly likely to recommend their care to friends and family. 

As well as improved patient outcomes, the new model is also proving a highly efficient system for the taxpayer with almost 7,500 less people being admitted to hospital in the first year thanks to the fast diagnostics – saving over £6million for the local health economy. 

Chief executive of Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, Mr David Evans, will appear on BBC Inside Out in the North East and Cumbria at 7.30pm on Monday 31 October discussing the work to improve ambulance handovers.  To view his full interview with the BBC, click here.