East Midlands Ambulance Service responds to concerns about ‘corridor care’ in local hospitals
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Nationally, pressures on available beds have seen ambulances queueing outside hospitals during long waits to hand over patients, largely due to patient flow problems through hospitals.
Often, people who are medically fit for discharge can’t leave because there is no space for them in the social care system.
Queen’s Medical Centre (QMC), accepts most ambulance patients soon after they arrive.
But a lack of space at the hospital means some patients are ending up in corridors.
Paramedics must wait with patients until they have been accepted by the hospital – leading to delays in ambulances being out in the community.
At a meeting of Nottinghamshire Council’s health scrutiny committee on November 14, Greg Cox, divisional director for Nottinghamshire at EMAS, said QMC was experiencing ‘significant pressures around ambulance handover’, but added that they were ‘working to improve that position’.
He said the service was mostly hitting its targets for category one calls, which involved people with the most serious life-threatening injuries or illnesses, but not hitting its targets for category two calls, which includes heart attacks.
After category two, category three is for urgent calls and category four for non-urgent.
Mr Cox said: “In category two, unfortunately, we are about 10 minutes adrift on average.”
Coun Kate Foale, Labour group leader at the council, said: “Some of the response times clearly are worrying.
“One of the things people said to me when I was coming to this meeting is ‘tell them about the people queuing in the corridors’.
“As I understand it there is one or two paramedics with each bed and clearly that is reducing your capacity to get back out there again.”
Mr Cox responded: “The work we are doing with the Nottinghamshire Integrated Care Board (ICB) is trying to address that.
“Nottinghamshire hospitals have been good at getting our patients in the department.
“Then there comes the difficulty about the hospital’s ability to take that patient off us.
“We effectively continue that care of those patients until the hospital can take the patient off us.
“We are trying to do something about it as a system.”
Coun Sue Saddington (Con), committee chair, asked why EMAS was able to make timings targets for category one calls but not category two
Mr Cox replied: “We do hold some resources just for category one patients.
“There is something about how our control rooms work in terms of priority.
“It’s not ideal but these are the decisions that have to be made on a daily basis.
“If an ambulance is deployed to a category three call and a cardiac arrest comes in, if it’s appropriate they will be redirected to that more serious call.”
Gemma Whysall, system delivery director for urgent care at the ICB, said: “What we see in the ambulance service is symptomatic of what is happening in the whole system.
“We are seeing a higher demand in primary care and community services.”
Bill Kelly, EMAS head of operations, said around half of all patients are currently taken into an emergency department.
He added the service had received funding for 25 new frontline staff in Nottinghamshire.