Outrageous scandal of 80,000 ‘lost ambulance hours’ in Welsh NHS – German

January 17, 2011 12:15 PM

Shocking figures uncovered by the Welsh Liberal Democrats have revealed that tens of thousands of hours of emergency ambulance cover are being lost in Welsh NHS hospitals while crews wait to hand patients over to hospital staff.

Over the last two years, an outrageous 80,404 hours (3350 days or 9 years) have been wasted while ambulances are waiting to discharge their patients.

Guidelines set by the Health Minister currently state that the wait to hand over responsibility of a patient to nursing staff should be no longer than 20 minutes, but the target is clearly not being met.

Across Wales, the Royal Gwent Hospital was the worst performer amassing a staggering 15,909 lost hours with Morriston Hospital following with 11,962 lost hours and UHW wasting 9,986 hours. The Welsh Ambulance Service calculates that the cost of a lost unit hour is £76 which means that time wasted in A&E hospitals cost the NHS over £6,000,000 over past two years.

Apart from causing distress to the patient waiting to be transferred to the A&E department, pressure is put on ambulance crews to respond to other emergency calls in the area.

Veronica German, Welsh Liberal Democrats Shadow Health Minister said:

These figures are absolutely shocking. This proves that there is systemic failure in the way the Welsh NHS handles emergency situations. Month after month, we see that Welsh patients have to wait an unacceptable amount of time for ambulances to respond to emergency call-outs and now we see that ambulances have to wait an unacceptable amount of time to transfer patients and get back on the road to respond to emergency calls.

Lost ambulance hours is a huge problem for the Welsh NHS and the figures uncovered by the Welsh Liberal Democrats reveal that the problem is getting worse. Not only are patients waiting in the ambulance to be discharged to the care of the A&E department, other patients across the region are waiting longer for an ambulance to arrive because they are stuck in the hospital.

When I challenged the First Minister on this issue he said that the ambulance service is making good progress. There is no doubt that the service has improved its own operations and has dedicated crews working extremely hard in difficult circumstances. But it is clear that ambulances cannot attend calls if they are queuing outside hospitals. Year on year, more ambulances have to wait outside A&E department to discharge their patients. This is not an issue for the ambulance service but for the whole of the NHS in Wales. This is a totally unacceptable situation and it must change.

On top of the staggering wasted ambulances hours across Wales, it is estimated that over £6 million was lost to the Welsh NHS over the last two years because of queuing ambulances. We should be looking for savings is the NHS not wasting money.

I will be raising this very urgent matter with the First Minister and the Health Minister to ensure that the hard work of the emergency services is not thwarted by poor organisation and poor management of our NHS under this Labour-Plaid government.

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