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Hospital capacity blamed for emergency admission delays

14th March 2012

Lack of capacity in hospitals is being blamed for frequent blockages in emergency departments.

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Data seen by HSJ suggests that patients have already spent hundreds of hours stuck outside hospitals in ambulances this year.

Incidents where a patient is in an ambulance at the hospital but is not able to be admitted for more than an hour are known as “black breaches” and already during the first seven weeks of this year there were 673 such incidents recorded by London Ambulance Service Trust.

NHS London has already raised concerns about emergency service performance with the problem particularly severe at some hospital sites.

Queen’s Hospital, run by Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals Trust, had 186 reported black breaches between the beginning of the year and mid-February, North West London Hospitals Trust’s Northwick Park site had 105 and Lewisham University Hospital Trust 84 over the same period.

However, there were no such breaches at 10 of London’s 33 accident and emergency units.

Bed capacity has been highlighted as an issue at Northwick Park Hospital, which has seen a 10% increase in A&E attendances over the past three years, with a similar issue at Queen’s.

Derek Hicks, fellow of the College of Emergency Medicine, said delayed admissions were a problem nationwide and that a relatively small increase in ambulance numbers is resulting in a “disproportionate increase in delays.”

Andrew Frazer, chair of the Royal College of Nursing’s emergency care association, said bed cuts across Britain have not been matched with better admission efficiency.

 

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