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East Midlands ambulance crews across the region lost more than 25,000 hours due to handover delays at hospitals in the space of two months.

East Midlands ambulance crews across the region lost more than 25,000 hours due to handover delays at hospitals in the space of two months.

East Midlands Ambulance Service covers Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Rutland, Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire.

Around 12,800 hours were lost in the month of April while crews waited to hand over patients to hospitals, and a further 12,872 hours were lost in May.

East Midlands Ambulance Service HQ in Nottinghamshire
East Midlands Ambulance Service HQ in Nottinghamshire

That is the equivalent to over 1,000 12-hour shifts each month, and the problem persists despite the service putting in 9.3 per cent more double-crewed ambulance resources.

As a result the service has hardly met any of its national targets.

During an EMAS board meeting on June 4, chairwoman Karen Tomlinson said: “If we have increased our workforce by that amount and we are still only barely holding our own in terms of performance, then you have got to ask the question; where is that in the system? What actually is the cause that is not allowing us to improve?”

Chief executive, Richard Henderson, replied: “Excess handover delays.

“In May, losing 4,000 more hours in comparison to the same month last year, with more resource on the front line in comparison to last year, we are unable to significantly improve our performance unless the demand reduces.

“But ultimately what we would have to see is a significant reduction in those handover delays.”

On top of handover delays, another 34,101 hours were lost in April due to sickness absence.

However, director of strategy and transformation, Will Legge, said this was 2.4% better than in December, as well as being the lowest level of sickness absence since June 2021.

“From April this year we are starting to see a significant step change downwards in terms of that operational sickness,” he added.

The board was told sickness in Lincolnshire had particularly improved.

Sickness absence overall currently sits around 7.5%, which is still above the national target of five per cent.

Discussion later turned to a significant variation in how long some crews spend on scene at jobs.

Chairwoman Ms Tomlinson said: “I do have an issue with the on-scene times, because they are a measurement to all and we all know we might have a better outcome if someone is on scene for 60 minutes than if we make them turn around in 15.

“I am not hard and fast on on-scene times. I would fight very hard if it was 60 minutes and the patient outcome was better.”

However she did question why there was such a variation in times across the region.

Tim Slater, deputy director of operations, said: “I think the key areas are pathway access, so the availability of key pathways [places to take patients for treatment] massively vary.

“The acute, so what is happening at acute can massively impact decision-making. So if an acute [hospital] is under significant pressure a crew may be more inclined to spend more time on scene seeking alternatives.

“I think skill-mix and confidence will massively influence it. In some areas we have a very new, inexperienced workforce, and I mean that in the kindest possible way, but we have, so it is that confidence in clinical decision-making.

“There are a lot of factors but they are the three key areas.”

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