Two acute trusts account for almost two-thirds of emergency department ‘diverts’ reported over the last two months.
Between the start of December and the start of February, Worcestershire Acute Hospitals Trust and University Hospitals Sussex Foundation Trust implemented 122 temporary “diverts” between them – representing around 60% of the national total.
The measure is taken when a particular site, such as Worcestershire Royal or Royal Sussex County Hospital, comes under significant pressure and ambulances are temporarily directed to an alternative hospital, usually within the same trust.
NHS England guidance says diverts of emergency patients due to lack of physical or staff capacity to deal with attendances or admissions “should be an action of last resort” and that this “should only need to happen in exceptional circumstances, where internal measures have not succeeded in tackling the underlying problem”.
Helen Hughes, chief executive of Patient Safety Learning, said: “For ambulance services, the impact of A&E diverts is two-fold. It both increases the length of journeys that crews have to make once a divert is implemented, and increases the travel time required to get back to subsequent emergency calls."
“This has the potential to increase waiting times for patients, increasing the risk of avoidable harm, particularly for those who are seriously ill, frail or elderly.”
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Source: HSJ, 15 February 2022