Longest Gwent ambulance handover time three hours
6:10pm Monday 9th December 2013 in News
THE longest emergency ambulance handover times at Gwent hospitals topped three hours on four occasions during August-October.
The figures from the Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust reveal that problems with long handover times are common across Wales, with the longest handover during that three-month period, in Swansea, topping six hours.
And though the average handover time is around 20 minutes, with the majority being much shorter, that average is above the target 15 minutes.
The longest handover time in Gwent during these three months was a few seconds short of three hours and 20 minutes, early in September.
Minimising handover times is essential if hard-pressed A&E units are to be able in turn to meet their own targets for dealing with patients, and to ensure that ambulance crews can get back out on the road as soon as possible to ensure emergency response times can be met.
But the figures suggest that too many crews are being kept off the road for too long at hospitals.
Paramedics are only able to hand patients over to hospitals when staff are ready to take them, and delays mean either that patients spend time on ambulance trolleys in A&E, or on occasion remain in the ambulance outside for a period.
And though Wales has the longest waits, difficulties in the timely handover of patients exist across the UK.
In Gwent, performance against the 15-minute handover target has improved since last winter and early spring, though the latest figures, for October, remain under the target - that 70 per cent of handovers should be completed inside 15 minutes.
For that month, 15-minute handovers at Nevill Hall were just short of the target, but at the Royal Gwent they reached 60 per cent.
Conversely, fewer handovers at Gwent hospitals - less than two per cent in October - are taking more than an hour, though the target states that they should not happen at all.
Measures introduced by Aneurin Bevan Health Board and the ambulance trust to manage demand include having an ambulance liaison officer permanently stationed in A&E to speed up handovers, and having enhanced paramedic cover at the scene of 999 calls, to avoid hospital admissions where possible. Handover times are a concern of community health councils (CHCs) in Wales. Cathy O'Sullivan, chief officer of Aneurin Bevan CHC in Gwent, said handover delays can impact on patients' outcomes and their quality of life.
"If you are an elderly, vulnerable, frail individual who may have dementia or suffer confusion as a result of your condition delays can just make things worse and might make recovery more difficult or longer," she said.
"They have an impact on emergency ambulance response times too."
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