'Demoralising' handover delays leaving paramedics stuck outside hospitals for entire shifts

  • Some paramedics have described spending their entire shift outside hospital

Paramedics have described the "demoralising" hospital handover delays which have seen them spend entire 12-hour shifts stuck waiting to drop off their patients.

Some East of England Ambulance Service workers told ITV News Anglia they were spending more time waiting outside hospitals than they were responding to emergencies.

One said she was recently part of a queue of 37 ambulances outside the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital.

James Pearson, a paramedic and leading operations manager for Waveney, said: "If we're outside a hospital, we can't respond to our patients.

"We'd all like to be there within that golden timeframe of eight minutes when we need to be. But it simply isn't something that can happen at the moment.

"It is demoralising. You do take it home. You tend to go home and you know the next day you might be sat outside a hospital again. It makes you not want to come to work."

Paramedics Michaela and Simon from the East of England Ambulance Service. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Ambulance response times in the East of England are some of the worst in the country.

For category two calls, which include strokes, the NHS target time is an average of 18 minutes. Figures from October show the East of England Ambulance Service's average response time was 87 minutes.

Paramedics say handover delays play a major part in these statistics.

They reflect a health system under serious strain, where a lack of social care often sees in-demand hospital beds filled by patients who are medically fit to be discharged.

At the James Paget in Gorleston in Norfolk, they've launched a 'handover unit' - where patients will be transferred and seen to allow paramedics to get back on the road quicker.

"It's definitely worse this year than it has been," said chief executive Jo Segasby.

"It's not so much that we're seeing more ambulances, it's more the problem that we've got with patients in the hospital who we're not able to discharge into community and social care services.

"We've had patients waiting 12 hours in an ambulance outside the hospital, which we absolutely don't think is satisfactory. It's not acceptable for us."

The hospital has also introduced a GP streaming unit to deal with the dozens of people who turn up at A&E every day who don't necessarily need to be there.

They're recruiting NHS reservists to plug staffing gaps and using virtual wards to monitor patients at home.

The ambulance service says it has introduced a new "digital portal" in call centres to stream appropriate cases directly to community care providers - keeping ambulances free for emergency care.

They say plans are also in place to roll out cars with advanced practitioners to be able to treat more patients at home and avoid hospital trips.

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