Ambulance crews have spent 4,000 hours waiting beyond the standard 15-minute target which, South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS) said, was limiting its ability to respond to new calls.
‘Hospital handover delays remain a significant challenge to the SCAS service delivery,'’ its head of operations, Tracy Redman, said in a report. ‘We have seen the impact of Covid-19 actually reducing the delays, however SCAS has experienced the highest number of delays ever recorded in recent weeks.
‘The result is that SCAS resources are tied up and unable to respond to other patients in the community during this time.’
She added that the service was working with NHS bodies and local authorities to reduce the problem and that 'a number of actions' were now being progressed to facilitate this.
Its data showed delays in the transfer of patients at QA have tripled since August and are more than five times higher than they were in May.
On one night last month 30 ambulances was pictured waiting outside the hospital with the deputy medical director at the hospital, Dr Mark Roland, describing the situation as ‘really difficult’.
He said at that point: ‘We have increasing numbers of Covid cases in our beds and in our ITU. We’ve started to see the first of our flu cases for this winter and we have a huge number of people attending hospital for other reasons.
‘Our pressure on our services, on our emergency department, on our wards, is equivalent to what we would see at the very worst of the winter time.’
The ambulance service declared a ‘critical incident’ on the last weekend of October as it was ‘overwhelmed’ by calls.
Speaking at Thursday’s meeting of the health scrutiny committee, Jo York, of Portsmouth Clinical Commissioning Group said work was ongoing to relieve pressure on the hospital.
‘All partners are working incredibly hard,' she said. 'The city council and Solent [NHS Trust] are working incredibly closely with the hospital trust and South Central Ambulance Service.
‘We’re also working very closely with our primary care colleagues as well and have agreed a shared action plan, recognising that this is a complex issue that we all need to support. It’s not the fault of any one partner in the system.’
She said the plan was focused on three main areas - making sure only patients who 'absolutely need' hospital treatment are taken to QA, 'redirecting' people who turn up at A&E and can be cared for elsewhere and making sure there is capacity to discharge patients.