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NHSE director admits ‘huge cost’ to cutting ambulance delays

Reductions in the number of long ambulance delays have come at a “huge cost” as hospitals are having to take in more emergency patients than they have space for, NHS England’s urgent care director has said.

Sarah-Jane Marsh told NHS England’s board meeting on Thursday that emergency departments and hospital wards are now taking more “risk” by taking extra patients in a bid to get ambulances back on the road quicker.

This year, many fewer hours have been lost to ambulance delays, although the total number of delays of more than 60 minutes is approaching the same as last winter. Emergency department waits in November and December were better than last year, although still much worse than pre-covid and a long way below targets. 

But Ms Marsh said the improvement was a result of hospitals agreeing to take more patients into EDs and acute wards, even when they did not have space or staff to properly care for them.

She said: “It’s come at a huge cost. Some of the things we have achieved are because we have moved pressures around in the system.

“We have moved risk out of people’s houses and from the back of ambulances, and in some cases we’ve moved that into emergency departments [and] wards, that have had to take the pressure of taking additional patients.

“Next year one of our learnings is that we need to have a really big focus on what is happening inside our hospitals [so] we decongest some very crowded areas.”

Read full story (paywalled)

Source: HSJ, 1 February 2024


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