NHS winter crisis: Hundreds lefts waiting outside county A&Es

Hundreds of patients waited for more than an hour in ambulances outside Lancashire hospitals during the winter NHS crisis.

Ambulances queuing outside Royal Preston Hospital
Ambulances queuing outside Royal Preston Hospital

Figures released by the health service show 1,717 ambulances had A&E handover periods of more than 60 minutes.

A further 2,154 waited between 30 and 60 minutes, longer than the recommended 15 minute target.

The statistics have been released in the final set of situation reports of the year for Lancashire Teaching Hospitals Trust – which runs Preston and Chorley’s hospitals.

They highlight the pressures placed on NHS facilities during the busy winter months.

Hospitals across the country were asked to file weekly reports between November 20 and March 4.

In total, 9,833 people arrived by ambulance during the winter period.

The reports also reveal the trust’s wards were operating close to capacity - and above the recommended safe level - throughout the period.

On average, wards were 96.4 per cent full, with the safe limit target at 85 per cent.

In hospitals where more than 85 per cent of beds are occupied, there is a greater risk of patients receiving inadequate care, being placed on an inappropriate ward for their condition, or contracting superbugs such as MRSA, according to the British Medical Association.

The busiest day for the hospital during the winter period was 2 January, when 99.9 per cent of all beds were full.

And the trust only managed to meet the 85 per cent target on one day during the entire winter period.

When the crisis was at its peak at the start of the year, the NHS instructed hospitals to delay non-urgent treatment such as joint operations and cataract surgery to relieve pressure on Accident & Emergency departments.

And the latest figures for December and January show that hospitals across England also cancelled 601 urgent procedures such as cancer operations.

Karen Partington, chairman of the central Lancashire A&E Delivery Board and chief executive of Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said: “This winter has been very busy for health services around the country.

“We are proud of all the staff in our local health and social services organisations who have been working with great commitment, care and compassion to look after patients.

“Despite postponing some non-urgent procedures, the hospitals too have been exceptionally busy. We apologise to every patient who has experienced delays, and trust everyone understands we’ve been doing everything possible to maintain safe and effective care.”Long handovers outside A&E departments are one of the facts that affects North West Ambulance Service’s performance times.

The trust is one of the worst performing in the country, and last month was branded a “shambles” in the House of Commons by MP Tony Lloyd.

The Rochdale MP said ambulances were only reaching the most serious cases in an average of 11 minutes, when targets say 75 per cent should be answered within eight. And he said they are taking an average of 44 minutes for the next category of calls, when 75 per cent should be reached within 18.

Union representatives said long waits at A&E was a mjaor factor in response times, with one paramedic saying they often only get to three or four jobs per shift, with the rest of the time taken up waiting at hospitals for handovers.