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Surge in serious incidents caused by ambulance delays

Ambulance trusts are seeing rising numbers of serious incidents resulting from delays in reaching patients, research by HSJ has uncovered.

Serious incidents are defined by the NHS as a patient safety failure “where the consequences to patients, families and carers, staff or organisations are so significant or the potential for learning is so great, that a heightened level of response is justified.”

East Midlands Ambulance Service Trust saw 71 serious incidents in 2021-22 compared with 38 in the financial year before. The trust’s board papers attribute the increase in SIs related to delayed responses since June 2021 to “sustained pressure on the service” and the resulting growing handover times at accident and emergency departments. Of 14 SIs reported in February and the first half of March 2022, seven were due to “prolonged waits for an ambulance response”.

West Midlands University Ambulance Service Foundation Trust has also seen an increase in SIs. Its board papers report that half of the SIs are due to “delays in reaching patients resulting in harm, serious harm, and deaths”. It has given the issue of “hospitals, breaches, delays and turnaround times” the maximum rating of 25 on its risk register.

Long delays – especially for category two patients, where average performance last month was above an hour – are causing increasing concern. Stroke Association chief executive Juliet Bouverie said the organisation was hearing “shocking accounts from stroke survivors who have waited hours for an ambulance… We are extremely worried that stroke survivors’ lives and recoveries are being put at extreme risk.”

Read full story (paywalled)

Source: HSJ, 20 April 2022


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