Hospitals keeping 999 crews waiting

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NEARLY 40 per cent of 999 patients taken to West Suffolk Hospital wait more than 15 minutes to be signed over to A & E staff.

Figures released on Tuesday after a BBC freedom of information request show that nationally, ambulances are held up longer than the target 15 minutes for handover to A&E in up to 68 per cent of cases.

But the East of England Ambulance Service (EEAST) figures show that West Suffolk Hospital has made one of the best improvements in turn round times in the region. In 2008/09 it missed the 15 minute target in 49 per cent of cases and in 2009/10 that worsened to 51 per cent, which was the fourth worst among the 22 hospitals EEAST serves. Its average waiting time for patients missing the target also increased to 20.55 minutes which was the longest of the 22.

Southend was region’s worst, hospital, with 68 per cent missing the deadline.

But in the year to October 2011, West Suffolk moved 11 places up to become the seventh best, missing the deadline in only 39 per cent of cases and their average wait dropped to 16.42 minutes.

Gwen Nuttall, chief operating officer at West Suffolk, said: “We monitor ambulance handover times throughout the day so that we can react to any peaks which arise. We also review the figures on a weekly basis and hold regular meetings with the ambulance service to see how we can further improve.

“The number of patients being brought to A & E by ambulance has increased steadily over recent years. However, we make sure that every patient is triaged [assessed] on arrival at hospital so that those with the greatest clinical need will be treated as a priority.”

Addenbrooke’s in Cambridge has worsened in three years from 32 per cent missing the target to 43 per cent.

Alan Murray, EEAST service delivery director, said it was working with the hospitals which presented the biggest challenge.