Hospital delays are 'putting lives at risk' warns ambulance chief


Emily Davies

LIVES are being put at risk by Welsh hospital delays, Shropshire’s dedicated ambulance official has revealed on Tuesday.
John Wright , the county’s assistant general manager for the West Midlands Ambulance Service (WMAS) warned delays of up to three hours at Wrexham’s Maelor Hospital are causing patients to be left in ambulances, forcing ambulances to travel on to the Countess of Chester Hospital or the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital (RSH), and forcing additional pressures on vehicles serving the Shropshire community.
He also revealed the Welsh Ambulance Service is increasingly asking for help to cover north and mid Wales border areas, averaging out at more than one request every day.
Mr Wright told the Advertizer: “Patients’ lives are at risk, but I don’t want to concern people.
“It is certainly a concern for us. The longer we leave a vehicle outside the areas the more workload that falls onto the others. We have to pull responders from other parts of the county to cover that and that puts a risk on the patients still in the county.
“There is concern that when we take patients to Wrexham they can’t even get through the door, they have to wait in the back of the ambulance for a bed and that is a concern for the patient as well as us.
“It’s not the place you want to be, when you get to the hospital you want to be in the hospital and being seen to.”
Mr Wright also revealed the issues have in part led to WMAS increasing the number of double-crewed ambulances serving Shropshire by four to 20 in the last three months.
However, he added that they are managing the issue through Shropshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) at present and was glad it was finally “coming to a head”.
Clinical accountable officer at Shropshire CCG, Dr Caron Morton, said: “The CCG has grown increasingly concerned over reports of increasing ambulance handover delays at the Wrexham Maelor Hospital and the potential clinical risks that presents to patients due to the time they may have to spend waiting to be admitted to hospital.
“We have engaged with the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB) regarding this issue and were assured that the hospital was receiving additional support to help improve handover times.
“However, we do still have concerns about long ambulance handover delays at the Wrexham Maelor Hospital and will continue to raise this with them as an area of concern for Shropshire patients.”
Apologising for the delays, a spokesperson for BCUHB, which is responsible for the Maelor, said the peaks were “periodical”.
The spokesperson added: “At these times we have to prioritise the care of patients who need the most urgent treatment.
“This can cause delays for other patients who arrive during this period, although our staff make every effort to get people into hospital as quickly as possible.
“During periods of sustained high demand in February we also opened additional beds and brought in additional staff to help the situation.”

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