Scas board members call handover delays at QA Hospital unacceptable

Ambulances queuing outside QA earlier this year Picture: Dr Jamie Fryer/Twitter
Ambulances queuing outside QA earlier this year Picture: Dr Jamie Fryer/Twitter
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HANDOVER delays at Queen Alexandra Hospital have been branded unacceptable.

During a meeting of South Central Ambulance Service’s (Scas) council of governors, members were told they are doing as much as they can to improve the situation but problems still persist.

It frightens me that the most serious thing are these delays but nothing is happening.

Mike Hawker

It was revealed at the meeting held earlier this month Scas has paid for a consultant to go into A&E and give advice on what changes could be made. But members questioned what else they could do.

Philip Astle, chief operating officer, said: ‘In August, Scas lost 551 hours to delays at QA which is twice as bad as last year. Our focus is on it, the whole system’s focus is on it.

‘We are doing everything we can. The current situation is not acceptable.’

As previously reported in The News up to 16 ambulances have been seen queuing outside A&E waiting to handover patients.

The problems were first picked up by the Care Quality Commission last February when jumbulances, housing several patients, were used to hold patients waiting to be admitted to A&E to free up ambulances.

Since then, ambulances have been spotted queueing several times with patients waiting hours to be handed over to QA staff.

At the meeting, council of governors member Richard Coates questioned if financial penalties could be used, calling the problem a ‘massive concern’.

He said: ‘I have heard all the right things being said by QA but nothing actually happens.

‘Nothing has happened in the last year and no-one is taking leadership on the problem.

‘Can more pressure be put on QA? We have the ability to charge them if an ambulance is kept over 15 minutes, are we pushing this or are we trying to be nice to QA?

‘We have to be a lot harder to make things happen.’

But other members disagreed on fining them.

Mike Hawker, a non-executive director, said: ‘Whether or not a financial penalty would work, I don’t know.

‘I am staggered that nothing has worked so far. It frightens me that the most serious thing are these delays but nothing is happening.

‘It is difficult to say what we could do that NHS England is incapable of doing.

‘I don’t know if we want to go to war with QA. While they might be performing badly, when I have talked to people from the Portsmouth area, they are proud of it and think it gives a good service.

‘It is highly frustrating though. The fact we are paying for consultants to go in and give them advice is more than we should have to do. It is terrible.’

Chairman Lena Samuels said Scas is doing all it can but they cannot improve the situation on its own.

‘We are seeing that we are doing everything we possibly can,’ she said.

‘That includes throwing our money at the problem. We cannot change a system that we don’t have full control of.

‘We are doing everything we can to influence the people who can influence the system.

‘The best we can do is help them. Our relationship with QA remains positive and we are committed to supporting them.’

Paul Bytheway, chief operating officer for Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust which runs QA, said: ‘The timely care for patients is always our goal. We are continuing to work with Scas to address this issue. All patients are clinically assessed and, unfortunately, sometimes this means patients have to wait while sicker patients are assessed and treated. However, our highly trained staff are working hard to ensure that delays are minimized. In addition, we and the health system as a whole are also working to reduce delays.’