AMBULANCE crews in Wales are losing thousands of hours unable to respond to other calls due to being forced to wait outside hospitals, a new report has found.

A report from Healthcare Inspectorate Wales (HIW) has highlighted such delays between April 2020 and March this year.

During this period, ambulance crews had to wait more than an hour to transfer patients on no fewer than 32,699 occasions.

Of these, 16,405 involved patients over the age of 65.

The report said that such findings were "concerning" as "many older adults can be considered more vulnerable and at risk of unnecessary harm due to frailty and pre-existing health conditions which are more common with older age".

Data published by Welsh Government of the recorded number of lost hours as a result of hospital handover delays, highlight that in December 2020, a total of 11,542 hours were lost due to handover delays.


"These delays have serious implications on the ability of the service to provide timely responses to patients requiring urgent and life threatening care," said the report.

"Handover delays impact on the ability of ambulance crew to provide a positive experience for patients.

"It may also increase the risk to patient safety, through delays in diagnosis and receiving treatment."

The report does stress that delays in handovers are a result of problems across the entire health and social care system - not just ambulance issues.

Delays in discharging patients have knock-on effects to emergency departments, which then have knock-on effects to handovers.

The report made the following recommendation: "Health boards and Welsh Government should consider what further actions are required to make improvements regarding the patient flow issues impacting on delayed patient handover.
"This may include consideration of whether a different approach is required by WAST, health boards, and social care services within Wales, to that taken to date in tackling this system-wide problem."

Claire Roche, the Welsh Ambulance Service’s Executive Director of Quality and Nursing, said: “Ambulance crews know better than anyone the impact that delayed handover has on a patient’s experience because they spend many hours – sometimes an entire shift – with the same patient on the back of a vehicle.
“It’s as distressing for our crews as it is for the patient and their loved ones, especially when there are other patients in the community who need our help and we can’t get to them.
“The focus of all of us in NHS Wales should be on patient safety, whether that’s patients on the back of an ambulance outside the Emergency Department or patients in the community where arguably, the risk to their safety is greater because they don’t have an expert clinician by their side.
“Our emergency ambulance service exists to deliver life-saving immediate care and to take patients promptly to hospital for the necessary treatment – being available in the community to respond to people is therefore essential.
“For the Welsh Ambulance Service, this is about getting to the root cause of the issue in order to resolve it, rather than adapting to a situation so that it becomes the new normal.
“We welcome the fact that Healthcare Inspectorate Wales is shining a light on this issue, and we will continue to work with colleagues in health boards and Welsh Government to make improvements.”