A big rise in 999 calls has placed a great strain on the ambulance service and accident and emergency staff in Brighton and Hove over the past eight weeks.
It comes on top of significant handover and turnaround delays when patients arrive by ambulance at the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton.
A report to councillors by the South East Coast Ambulance Service (SECAmb) said: “Between April 2015 and February 2016, over 15,600 hours have been lost to ambulance handover and turnaround delays at Sussex acute hospitals.
“Across Sussex the number of hours lost to delays is 41 per cent higher than the equivalent period in 2013-14.
“Locally, there have been increases in hours lost of 31 per cent at the Royal Sussex County Hospital.
“The number of patients conveyed has risen by 7 per cent between 2013-14 and 2015-16.
“Delays to patient handover give rise to significant concerns including
- Increased risk to patient safety, quality of care and dignity while their access to acute hospital care and associated nursing support is delayed
- Increased risk to the wider patient community arising from the reduction in SECAmb’s available capacity to respond to new 999 emergency incidents and longer average response times as a result
- Unsustainable pressure on staff welfare in both ambulance and hospital services as they manage the impact of these delays
- Reduced whole system efficiency and increased costs arising from time lost to delays and any reduction in care quality that may result
“Following the joint quality and process review with Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals Trust, a significant improvement was quickly achieved.
“In December 2015, the number of hours lost to delays was 40 per cent lower than that seen in December 2014.
“A joint action plan to deliver improved ‘patient flow’ throughout the hospital has been agreed and supported by partners across the health and social care system.
“Unfortunately, significant whole system challenges meant this level of improvement was not sustained in January and February, with handover delays reverting to their previous levels.
“A renewed focus is needed to drive the necessary improvements over the coming months.
“The performance in terms of handover and turnaround delays continues to worsen and has deteriorated significantly over the past two years.
“However, the progress achieved in November and December at the Royal Sussex County Hospital shows there is a realistic prospect of delivering very significant improvements for patients in a short time, assuming sufficient priority and resources are dedicated to the issue.”
The report was presented to the Brighton and Hove City Council Overview and Scrutiny Committee at Portslade Town Hall this afternoon (Wednesday 23 March).