Bristol hospital among worst in England for ambulance handover delays

More than 440 patients faced lengthy handover delays at the BRI in the week up to December 19. Credit: PA

Thousands of patients in the South West faced waits of more than 30 minutes to be handed over from ambulance teams to A&E staff.

It comes as University Hospitals Bristol and Weston - which runs both the Bristol Royal Infirmary and Weston General hospitals - reported the fifth-highest number of ambulance handover delays in England in the week to December 19.

One in five patients in England waited at least half an hour to be handed over from ambulance teams to A&E staff at hospitals in England last week.

NHS England data released today (December 23) shows that more than 2,000 patients in the South West were kept waiting for at least 30 minutes.

There were 2,031 handover delays in total - with 898 patients kept waiting for between 30 and 60 minutes and 1,133 experiencing delays of more than an hour.

A handover delay does not always mean a patient has waited in the ambulance. They may have been moved into an A&E department, but staff were not available to complete the handover.

The worst-affected trusts in the UK

  • University Hospitals Birmingham (760)

  • Barking, Havering & Redbridge University Hospitals (523)

  • North West Anglia (489)

  • University Hospitals of Leicester (449)

  • University Hospitals Bristol & Weston (440)

Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust reported the second highest number of delays in the West Country. It had 347 handover delays - 141 of which lasted between 30 and 60 minutes and 206 which went on for more than an hour.

The third-worst in the region was University Hospitals Plymouth - which had 305 delays. Of those, 112 lasted between 30 and 60 minutes and 193 lasted for more than an hour.

Interim medical director at at University Hospitals Bristol and Weston Trust, Dr Emma Redfern, apologised to patients who have experienced longer waits.

She told ITV News patient safety is the "priority" but said its hospitals under "sustained pressure" in their emergency departments.

"Like other hospitals, our ability to admit patients in a timely way is also being impacted by staffing challenges, the number of Covid-19 patients needing admission, and infection control guidance which means we have separate wards for Covid-19 and non-Covid-19 patients to maintain safety but this reduces the flexible use of our beds."

Handover delays are increasing pressure on the West Country's ambulance service.

She said challenges discharging medically fit patients are also continuing, adding: "Family and friends of patients can also help by being ready to collect their loved one from hospital when we call, and supporting them when they get home.

“We would like to apologise to any of our patients who have experienced a longer wait at our emergency departments.”

A spokesperson for University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust also told ITV News its emergency department is experiencing "exceptional challenges" in a pattern they said is being seen across the country.

"As with most hospitals the winter period and the pandemic has affected our sickness and absence rates. All of our colleagues have worked tremendously hard throughout a tough year, whether clinical or non-clinical, working from home, shielding or adapting in their normal roles, and we would like to thank them all for their dedication.”

ITV News has contacted Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust for comment.