November 11, 2021 1.38 pm This story is over 23 months old

Hospitals at breaking point as handover delays leave patients on trolleys for 12 hours

Situation “deteriorating significantly” say ambulance bosses

Ambulance handover delays and overcrowding at Lincolnshire A&E departments have reached breaking point with more than 70 patients waiting on trolleys for 12 hours in September.

A report before United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust said the trust had been below the agreed four-hour performance targets 11 times in 12 months up to September.

It comes as national reports from the BBC have said lives are “at risk from unacceptable ambulance waits”.

Data in ULHT board papers covering the period of August and September said there were 71 12-hour trolley waits while nearly 6% fewer patients were triaged within 15 minutes.

Handover delays almost doubled with those lasting more than 59 minutes increasing by 294 patients in September to 629 and those waiting more than two hours increasing from 244 to 465.

ULHT’s Chief Operating Officer Simon Evans said: “We work very closely with our colleagues from East Midlands Ambulance Service and are doing everything we can to improve handover processes and the flow in and through our emergency departments.

“At times when our emergency departments get extremely busy we can run out of space, which means ambulance crews have to wait until they are able to safely hand patients over to us.

“We always prioritise the most unwell patients, and when a handover cannot take place immediately, staff are allocated to work alongside ambulance crews to ensure those patients waiting are looked after.”

East Midlands Ambulance Service, which provides transport in Lincolnshire, has also reported “significant delays” in handovers across the entire region – despite attending fewer incidents.

Reports before the board in November and September, said that in the first 19 days of October the trust took 23,667 people to hospital, compared to 25,262 last year.

In August the proportion of patients transported by EMAS was 57% compared with 60.5% in 2020 and 66% in 2019.

Demand reportedly peaked on September 5 with around 400 calls, with crews across the East Midlands facing waits of six or seven hours at hospital.

CEO Richard Henderson, in his latest board report, said: “These delays in handover impact on our ability to respond to patients in the community in a timely manner.

“Since the beginning of the summer we have started to see the hospital handover position deteriorating significantly. 

“This relates to the delays we are experiencing in being able to hand over our patients on arrival at hospital.”

The reports reveal the pressure staff were under with absence rates reported as “high” and the situation becoming “increasingly difficult to ensure that staff were able to end their shift on time”.

Although ‘serious incidents’ were not increasing overall, the number relating to delayed response had increased and was being monitored.

Nationally, reports said average waits for emergency callouts were, in some cases, taking more than twice as long as they should in England with numerous investigations ongoing into deaths linked to delays.

Overcrowding is being blamed for some of the delays outside the nation’s hospitals with some services bringing in the military to support crews.

ULHT this week confirmed that nearly all of its beds were occupied.