Portsmouth hospital patient hold-ups in ambulances 215 times worse than Southampton

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THEY are only 20 miles apart but figures show hundreds of patients were left waiting more than 30 minutes to get into A&E in Portsmouth – compared to just six in Southampton.

A 69-day period between November 3 last year and January 11 this year saw 1,289 ambulances held up at Queen Alexandra Hospital in Cosham.

Ambulances parked up at Queen Alexandra Hospital Accident and Emergency Unit

Ambulances parked up at Queen Alexandra Hospital Accident and Emergency Unit

This averages out at 19 a day and could open up Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust (PHT), which runs QA, to be fined thousands of pounds.

In the same time period 8,537 ambulances went to QA, meaning 15 per cent were left waiting at least 30 minutes.

Southampton General Hospital saw 8,057 ambulances, but only six ambulances were held up – 0.07 per cent.

Councillor Peter Edgar, health spokesman for Gosport Borough Council, said: ‘This is unacceptable. The health infrastructure needs an overhaul.

‘When the QA was built there was supposed to be closer working with Southampton. Maybe they need to be seeing what they are doing because these figures are unacceptable.’

Fareham MP Mark Hoban also agrees that lessons need to be learnt from Southampton.

He said: ‘These figures are very shocking and we may not want to hear this, but we should look at what Southampton is doing.

‘I’m disappointed by such a big gap, but also the Portsmouth figures alone aren’t great.’

The figures from NHS England show that between December 24 and 28, 97 ambulances were held up and then 52 each day until January 8.

This surge has been blamed on the festive period by both PHT and South Central Ambulance Service (Scas).

A spokesman for PHT said: ‘Along with many other hospitals across the country, we experienced a large increase in ambulance delays between the beginning of November and early January due to the unprecedented demand.

‘The numbers of delays particularly intensified around the festive period.

‘We work on a daily basis to minimise any delays and enable Scas to ensure they can maximise their emergency response resources for the community we serve.’

Mark Ainsworth, operations director for Scas, said: ‘We are constantly reviewing our processes, performance, resources and results to improve the services we deliver for patients.

‘During the time period mentioned demand on healthcare services was extremely high which of course put additional pressure on services. Scas specifically has seen an increase of more than 10 per cent for the same period last year. It’s really important we work with the hospitals in our area to ensure we are able to effectively hand our patients into the care of the hospital and respond to the next patient who may require our help.

‘As a result of additional funding this winter we have introduced Hospital Liaison Officers at the hospitals, who are on hand to support our crews with patients on arrival at departments and manage patient flow.’

Clinical Commissioning Groups pay for health services and can levy fines for poor performance.

NHS guidelines say a person blue-lighted to hospital must be handed over by paramedics to the emergency team within 15 minutes.

A delay of more than 30 minutes means a £200 fine, and more than an hour is £1,000. For delays between April and November last year, PHT was fined around £95,000.

This money is not ‘lost’ as it is spent in the healthcare system. The CCGs will go through the figures before a fine is issued.

MP describes lengthy waits as miserable

THE MP for Portsmouth South has branded the ambulance delay times miserable, worrying and terrifying.

Mike Hancock said that such delays are frightening for patients.

He said: ‘This is a miserable situation.

‘You call an ambulance when you are at your weakest.

‘To be sat waiting in an ambulance for more than half-an-hour must be extremely worrying for all.

‘And it much also be extremely frightening for those people who have called for an ambulance and are left waiting longer than needed.

‘We all need to work hard and find a solution to this problem.’

Patient watchdog group Hampshire Healthwatch said it was surprised by the difference between the two hospitals.

Manager Steve Taylor said: ‘This is a big difference and must be concerning for patients.’

But a leading doctor said the effects of a multi-million cash boost to ease winter pressure is finally paying off.

Dr Jim Hogan, lead of the Portsmouth CCG, said: ‘In total more than £8m is being spent – approximately half of that has gone to PHT to open extra beds, and to get staff in place to manage the number of people needing emergency care. The rest of that money is being used to strengthen services outside hospital, helping people stay well at home, and to be supported to recover after periods of illness.

‘This investment has helped us to recover quickly.

There are currently no issues in terms of ambulances being held up at QA, and services outside hospital are working extremely effectively.’