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Increased ambulance handover delays threatening patient safety

A new snapshot survey by the Royal College of Emergency Medicine has found that in August 2021 half of respondents stated that their Emergency Department had been forced to hold patients outside in ambulances every day, compared to just over a quarter in October 2020 and less than one-fifth in March 2020.

The survey, sent out to Emergency Department Clinical Leads across the UK, also found that half of respondents described how their Emergency Department had been forced to provide care for patients in corridors every day, while nearly three-quarters said their department was unable to maintain social distancing every day.

One-third said that the longest patient stay they had had in their Emergency Department was between 24 and 48 hours, with 7% reporting the longest stay to be more than 48 hours.

Dr Ian Higginson, Vice President of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said: “It is shocking to see the extent of the challenges faced by Emergency Departments across the UK. Holding ambulances, corridor care, long stays – these are all unconscionable practices that cause harm to patients. But the scale of the pressures right now leaves doctors and nurses no options. We are doing all we can to maintain flow, maximise infection prevention control measures, and maintain social distancing. Our priority is to keep patients safe, and ensure we deliver effective care quickly and efficiently, but it is extremely difficult right now."

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Source: The Royal College of Emergency Medicine, 6 September 2021


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