Patients wait hours in ambulances - longest delays in Cornwall

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Figures from the UK's ten NHS Ambulance Trusts reveal that 3,424 patients waited at least two hours parked outside A&E departments before being 'handed over' to A&E staff.  This means, as well as putting those patients at risk, that ambulance and paramedics are not available to respond to other, often life-threatening calls, effectively putting the wider public at risk.

The longest delays were at the Royal Cornwall Hospital (RCHT) in Truro where, on one day in March, one patient waited more than eight hours before handover, while two others waited more than seven hours.  The Sunday Telegraph report cites correspondence from Ken Weyman, the chief executive of South Western Ambulance Service, warning the hospital’s chief executive that the equivalent of 14 crews were being lost each day because they were stuck at casualty units.

In a related story reported by BBC News, the RCHT is criticised again; this time for failing to meet waiting times in A&E.  Hospitals nationally are expected to meet a target of 95% of patients being seen and dealt with in A&E within four hours of arriving in the department.  Within this time it is expected that patients are assessed and management plans implemented, either leading to discharge or admission to hospital.  The 'clock' for the four hour target starts when the patient arrives in the department.There appears to be no such national policy regarding the length of time patients wait in the ambulance prior to being admitted to A&E however which, it seems to me, leaves little incentive within A&E departments or the hospital Trust to address this problem. 

The numbers of patients attending A&E departments year on year continues to steadily rise. This is partly due to the ageing population but also, suggests Andy Virr, consultant at RCHT, due to the public not knowing where they should go with ailments, accidents / minor injuries and emergencies.  Perhaps more clarification is needed to educate the general public as to which service to access and when.   

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