At present the target is 15 minutes but sadly these targets are often missed. If you go to A&E under your own steam you are seen by a Triage Nurse who assesses the urgency of your condition and prioritises you accordingly. People brought in by ambulance are not dealt with in this way. They have to be handed over to a member of the medical staff, and until that happens the paramedics and therefore the ambulance cannot leave. Meanwhile any one of us may be in direct need of an ambulance. In 2013-2014 there was nearly 300,000 ambulances delayed for more than 30 minutes, of which 30,601 were for more than an hour. This is because the system in place was not working. According to our research around the country, the waits vary from 1 hour 59 minutes in Scotland to 6 hours 22 minutes in Wales. Imagine the paramedics sitting or in some cases standing around for that long and then expected to be fully efficient.
There was a 74 year old man who in spite of a fully staffed ambulance service waited 43 minutes and died in agony, this story made the headlines but many more do not. There are many instances of fatalities due to late arrival of ambulances because the present system is failing. Surely in the 21st century when we can replace knees and hips, transplant lungs, hearts and so on, a better solution can be found for the problems associated with the arrival of late ambulances.
As with everything bringing in more staff or ambulances to make the situation improve will no doubt cost money, which the NHS says it does not have within its budget. Well here is one suggestion how to cover some additional costs. It has been reported that a woman has received more than £522, 379 after suffering post traumatic stress disorder due to the delay by the ambulance reaching her – it took 50 minutes to arrive. That money could have been put to good use to speed up the system if the ambulance had been on time. If everyone sued the figure that could be awarded in compensation could be staggering!
Reply from:- Dept of Health – Ministerial Correspondence and Public Enquiries Unit
To help support the integration of services at the point of a patient’s arrival at A&E in an ambulance, NHS England state that all handovers between an ambulance and A&E Dept take place within 15 mins, and crews to be ready to accept new calls within a further 15 mins. There must be a contractual fine for all delays over 30 mins, in both situations, and a further fine for delays over an hour. The Dept of Health continues to work with ambulance services, acute trusts and commissioners to see what more can be done to improve handovers. Maintaining responsive urgent and emergency care services across the country is a priority for this Government. That is why the Department set the expectation that ambulance trusts will work towards responding to 75 per cent of Category A Red 1 (immediately life-threatening) and Red 2 (serious but less immediately time critical) calls within 8 minutes and to respond to 95% of Category A calls within 19 minutes of a request being made for a fully equipped ambulance vehicle (car or ambulance) able to transport the patient in a clinically safe manner. The Dept see the national standard, and the wider Clinical Quality Indicators, as positive instruments in enabling ambulance services across the country to share consistent framework for self-assessment, peer review and more formal control processes. The standards are not intended to be strict targets but measures which not only highlight those trusts that are delivering the standards of care expected by the patients, but also those trusts who need support in improving the quality of their services. The Government has provided an additional £50 million to ambulance services. However NHS ambulance services are facing unprecedented levels of demand and are undertaking an additional 2000 emergency journeys a day. Despite this, they are still providing high quality care.