A NEW unit which aims to cut the number of emergency patients waiting in the back of ambulances at the Royal Gwent Hospital will be installed this week.

It comes as the hospital's emergency department - like many others UK-wide - struggles to cope with "unprecedented" demand which is proving extremely testing for patients and staff alike.

The unit will be sited outside the hospital's emergency department where at one point yesterday morning - as this photograph shows - at least 10 ambulances were parked up.

It is a graphic example of how surges in demand can affect patients and the services they rely upon, during what is already an extremely busy winter for the NHS.

The Royal Gwent ambulance handover unit, a key component of the health board's winter plan, is also intended to help get emergency ambulance crews back on the road as quickly as possible.


“The health board has been experiencing unprecedented levels of demand for our services over recent weeks, due to high levels of very poorly people with serious health conditions," said an Aneurin Bevan University Health Board spokesman.

“Yesterday morning a large number of ambulances arrived at the Royal Gwent Hospital, with six arriving within a one-hour period.

"However, thanks to the hard work and skill of our staff and those of the ambulance service, there were no ambulance crews held outside the hospital by 3.30pm.

“All patients who arrive at our hospitals in an ambulance are triaged on arrival and patients who require urgent life-saving treatment will be brought straight into our resuscitation department.

“This week we are installing a new handover facility outside the emergency department at the Royal Gwent Hospital, which will provide a dedicated and safe space for ambulance crews to handover patients into our care.

“We continue to work with our colleagues in the Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust to ensure the timely transfer of patients into our care and to release ambulance crews as quickly and efficiently as possible to respond to emergency calls in our communities.

“We would like to thank our staff for their hard work in such testing circumstances and to our patients for their understanding at this time.”

Delays in ambulance handovers at the Royal Gwent and other hospitals - this is a problem across Wales - have increased during 2019/20, with some patients having to be monitored in ambulances for several hours before they can be transferred into the hospital.

A stark example for Gwent can be found for last September, when there were 933 handovers that took longer than an hour at the area's hospitals, more than double the figure for the same month in 2018 (461).

Rising numbers of 'majors' cases - patients who are very sick - have in turn increased the amount of patients requiring admission, putting pressure on bed capacity.