Brighton and Hove’s main hospital trust is aiming to cut the time it takes for ambulance patients to be handed over to the Accident and Emergency (A&E) Department.
Like most similar trusts, Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust misses the 15-minute handover target many times each month.
Most of the delays take place at the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton.
The trust said that the number of A&E patients arriving by ambulance had risen 7.9 per cent from 3,795 in September to 4,119 in October.
Latest figures for November indicated that “ambulance conveyances” remained at a similar level with 4,029 patients arriving at both the Royal Sussex and the Princess Royal Hospital A&E.
The trust’s chief operating officer Nikki Luffingham told a board meeting yesterday (Monday 9 December) that on a busy day nine patients an hour arrived at A&E.
Last week 13 patients an hour were coming in by ambulance.
She said: “The gold standard is 15 minutes. We get potentially fined for 30-minute and 60-minute delays.
“We felt we were being penalised without the conditions being right. A lot of work has taken place with the ambulance trust.
“We have a system in place where both sides check all the data against an agreed set of metrics.”
As a result, she said, figures indicating that 758 patients waited more than half an hour to be handed over by ambulance crews in April, 638 in May and 561 in June were “unvalidated”.
Likewise, she said, the trust had not validated figures showing that 66 patients waited more than an hour in April, 95 in May and 61 in June.
Measures – or metrics – were agreed with the South East Coast Ambulance Service in July and agreed with health commissioners in September.
The number of delays has since fallen to 166 patients waiting more than half an hour in October and 38 waiting more than an hour. The final figures have yet to be confirmed.
In October, the trust said, the validated position was that 61 per cent of patients were handed over within 15 minutes and 78 per cent were handed over within 30 minutes.
The longest wait being 1 hour 41 minutes.
The delayed patients are not necessarily waiting in the back of an ambulance, the trust said. Most would be brought into A&E although it could take longer than 15 minutes to be handed over to the care of hospital staff.
The trust added: “The Royal Sussex County Hospital is the busiest Emergency Department in Kent, Surrey and Sussex.
“The number of patients arriving by ambulance continues to increase and is currently 5 per cent higher than it was for the same time last year.
“We do everything we can and work closely with South East Coast Ambulance to ensure patients can be handed over from ambulance crews in the required 15 minutes, and the vast majority are.
“We are also constantly looking at ways to improve the systems and environment within the Emergency Department to make this as smooth and efficient as it can be.
“When the department is exceptionally busy it is not always possible to complete a safe patient handover in 15 minutes and we have to prioritise the patients at highest risk and those whose need is most urgent.
“Any patients who do have to wait to be handed over are made as comfortable as possible and constantly monitored by their ambulance crew and our clinical staff.”
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