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Around a third of ambulance patients over festive period forced to wait for more than half an hour outside emergency departments

By Paul Francis

Around a third of patients taken to hospitals in Kent over the festive period had to wait more than half an hour outside emergency departments, figures show.

According to the statistics, 3,426 ambulances took patients to accident and emergency hospitals across the county between Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve.

Of those, 857 had to wait between 30 minutes and an hour to be admitted, and 255 had to wait longer than an hour.

Ambulance staff were sent to the scene. Stock picture
Ambulance staff were sent to the scene. Stock picture

The government target is 15 minutes.

Of the four trusts, the poorest performing was East Kent Hospitals University Foundation NHS Trust, which is responsible for the William Harvey Hospital, the Kent and Canterbury hospital and the Queen Elizabeth Queen Mary hospital in Thanet.

Of the 1,350 hospital transfers to its accident and emergency departments between Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve, 464 had to wait between 30 minutes and an hour while 121 had to wait longer than an hour - equating to 43% of all transfers.

On New Year’s Eve, of 194 ambulance transfers, 92 patients waited for between 30 minutes and an hour to be admitted, while 21 waited longer than an hour.

The trust has brought in a troubleshooter to oversee the hospitals during the winter period.

NHS England-appointed Dr Anne Rainsberry, who was the regional director of NHS London, to oversee the hospitals over the next few months.

The William Harvey Hospital
The William Harvey Hospital

In a statement, the trust said:

“Delays in ambulance handover can occur when the emergency department is very busy, so we are working hard to keep any delays to an absolute minimum. We prioritise patients arriving at the department by clinical need, so critically ill patients receive timely and appropriate treatment."

"We are working with the ambulance service and other partners on a long-term plan to improve handover times."

The two west Kent hospitals - Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells at Pembury - saw 749 transfers over the period, of which 203 were delayed for at least 30 minutes while 55 waited for longer than an hour.

Medway Maritime hospital saw 743 transfers, of which 179 were delayed by between 30 minutes and an hour while 79 had to wait longer than an hour.

Delayed transfers were lowest at the Darent Valley hospital, which saw 584 admissions over the period of which just 11 were for between 30 minutes and an hour and none were forced to wait longer than an hour.

The figures come as the government said hospitals were to be allowed to cancel all non-emergency operations and treatments in January to help them cope with a rising number of patients.

A spokesman for SECamb said:

“Handover delays at hospitals continue to be a significant issue for us across our whole region as they severely impact on our ability to respond to patients in the community as quickly as we would like."

“We recognise that improving handover delays will take a whole system approach. That is why, under the leadership of our Medical Director, we have developed an improvement plan with partners. We will continue to work closely with our staff, all hospitals and other NHS partners in our area to reduce delays.”

Kent Online has asked the East Kent Hospitals University Foundation NHS Trust for a comment.

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