Healthcare Inspectorate Wales has found 32,699 occasions in 2020/21 where ambulances took over an hour to transfer a patient from the vehicle to hospital, concluding “the issue of prolonged handover delays is a regular occurrence outside Emergency Departments across Wales”.
A recent report focusing on the Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust (WAST) found that such handover delays increased risk to patient safety and high levels of frustration from paramedics who feel like they can’t do their jobs effectively.
Other findings included:
- Half of those waited over an hour in the ambulance were over the age of 65;
- 1-in-5 patients waited over four hours for an ambulance and a similar proportion waited over two hours to be transferred to the Emergency Department;
- 4-in-5 A&E staff and less than a third of ambulance workers surveyed said there is not enough staff to carry out their role safely and effectively;
- Just 41% of WAST staff clearly understood who has responsibility and accountability for the patient at all times; and
- Only 49% of staff felt there was a robust process in place to escalate a deterioration in a patient’s condition to ED staff.
The report also contrasted the state of the Welsh NHS with that in England, stating the staff survey found that “concerns were highlighted that handover delays have become routine in Welsh hospitals, and are less frequent in England.”
It continued: “A number of ambulance crew provided their opinions to us during interview, that handover processes within Emergency Departments in England are more efficient than the processes in place in Wales, which compound the frustrations with handover delays across Wales.”
Commenting, Welsh Conservative and Shadow Health Minister Russell George MS said:
“There is an emergency in Wales’ ambulance service and until the Cardiff Bay government acknowledge that, then nothing will change.
“That there are significant concerns about patient safety is particularly worrying, not just for patients themselves and their families but, because of the toll that is taking on ambulance workers who feel helpless in their roles.
“But it goes beyond the ambulance service who are the casualties in overrun hospitals and A&E departments. Sadly, Labour ministers still fail our NHS, pandemic or no pandemic.
“If they hadn’t cut NHS beds by 28% since devolution, did have comprehensive winter plans to deal with higher demand, and brought in Conservative proposals for diagnostic hubs to handle the Covid-built backlog in treatment, maybe Wales would be in a far better position.”