Patient waits nearly two days in ambulance outside A&E at Princess of Wales Hospital

It took ambulance crews 41 hours to transfer the care of one patient over to A&E staff at the Princess of Wales Hospital in Bridgend Credit: Media Wales

A patient waited in an ambulance for nearly two days before being admitted into a hospital's emergency department, it has been revealed.

The Welsh Ambulance Service's chief executive Jason Killens confirmed handover delays are becoming increasingly frustrating but admitted there was "no quick fix".

It has emerged that it took ambulance crews 41 hours to transfer the care of one patient over to A&E staff at the Princess of Wales Hospital in Bridgend on Monday, September 26. The target time is 15 minutes.

Commenting on the handover delays, Jason Killens said: "Handover delays continue to inhibit our ability to respond to emergencies in the community. The issues and consequences of extended patient handover at emergency departments is deep-rooted and well-documented.

"On September 24 and 25 we lost nearly 1,800 hours of emergency ambulance cover across Wales outside hospitals. Unfortunately there is no quick fix. There are many factors impacting the delay in offloading patients into hospitals.

"This is as frustrating for our staff as it is for patients, so we continue to do all we can with our partners to ease the system-wide pressures to put a stop to long delays outside emergency departments."

Experts say a major contributing factor to long handover delays is the inability to discharge medically-fit patients from hospital wards due to a lack of social care provision. The Welsh NHS Confederation said up to 1,500 people are currently ready to leave hospital but cannot for this reason.

On Tuesday more than 50 NHS leaders in Wales described social care as being in a state of crisis and called on the Welsh Government to provide a long-term pay and funding strategy for the sector.

'This is not what we want for any of our patients'

In response to the 41-hour wait outside the Princess of Wales Hospital, Sarah James, deputy chief operating officer at Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board said: "We appreciate any wait for clinical service can be difficult for patients and their families as this is not what we want for any of our patients, staff and partners who are often working in challenging circumstances.

"A significant proportion of the beds at the hospital are currently occupied by patients who no longer need to be in an acute hospital and this creates an ongoing impact on flow through our emergency departments. Social care teams are working hard trying to discharge patients from our hospitals with the right package of care for their needs.

"We want to reassure that the safety of our patients, communities and staff is a priority: we continually work with Welsh Ambulance Service colleagues and local authority partners in Bridgend, to do all we can to manage the system-wide demand regularly experienced."

A report by Healthcare Inspectorate Wales (HIW) found that of the 185,000 ambulance handovers to emergency departments between April 2020 and March 2021, less than half of them (79,500) met the 15-minute target.

During that period there were also 32,699 incidents recorded where handover delays were in excess of 60 minutes, with almost half (16,405) involving patients over the age of 65.

The Welsh Government confirmed over the summer that a national ambulance improvement plan had been agreed by NHS Wales chief executives to deliver a range of actions to support better management of 999 demand in the community, increased ambulance capacity, improved responsiveness to people with time sensitive complaints and ambulance patient handover.

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