East Midlands ambulance handover time increase

More than 98,000 patients faced delays in being handed over from ambulance crews to hospital staff in the East Midlands in the year to March, figures have shown.

East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS) said 98,271 patients had to wait more than 15 minutes to be handed over in 2010/11 - a 64% increase from 2009/10.

The figures were released after a Freedom of Information request.

EMAS said it was working with hospitals to improve the times.

The target is for all patients to be handed over to hospital staff within 15 minutes.

'Spikes in demand'

Patients' details are usually sent by wireless technology from the ambulance to the hospital and paramedics then give a verbal briefing to clinical staff.

Nottingham's Queen's Medical Centre had the biggest number of delays in the East Midlands with 19,637 handovers over 15 minutes, an increase of 49% from the previous year.

Figures for Leicester Royal Infirmary almost doubled, from 8,773 in 2009/10 to 17,472 in 2010/11.

Peter Ripley, EMAS director of operations, said: "It [handover] has to be done safely and we have to put the best interests of the patients first but it should be done as quickly as possible.

"The majority of patients go through very quickly and are booked in under 15 minutes.

"We have spikes in demand and suddenly we get a very hot sunny day and activity increases and lots of patients come into the hospital at the same time and that creates problems for the ambulance service and hospitals.

"We should be aiming for no patients to be kept waiting and patient safety and care comes first for all of us."

'Doing our best'

Ben Teasdale, consultant in emergency medicine at Leicester's Hospitals, said: "Unfortunately handover times can be longer than we'd like because of a number of factors such as the volume of ambulances arriving within a short space of time and the high number of sick patients already present in the emergency department.

"We will continue to work with EMAS to reduce the amount of time it takes to hand over a patient to us."

Demas Esberger, clinical director of acute medicine at Nottingham University Hospitals, said: "We don't want to delay any patients and we don't want to delay the ambulances.

"We are struggling with the number of ambulances attending the department, we are doing our best and working with the ambulance service to try and improve our turnaround times."

EMAS received 723,519 emergency calls in 2010/11.

The service covers Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Rutland, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire and Nottinghamshire.

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