More than 10,000 hours of ambulance time was lost in December in the North West – equating to £1m wasted – while crews waited to hand over patients to under-pressure A&E departments.
That alarming figure is referred to in the NWAS Ambulance Response Programme Performance Report, which is due to be discussed at today’s meeting of Cheshire East’s health and adult social care scrutiny committee.
The report highlights that, according to new national performance figures, ‘the level of service provided to patients across the North West is not at an acceptable level and the rate of improvement demonstrated by the North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) falls well short of the progress made by other ambulance trusts under the new system’.
“Performance under the ambulance response programme has been extremely challenging and has required wholescale organisational change requiring review of how calls are answered and responded to before dispatch and the resource deployed to each incident,” said the report.
“As expected, December 2017 was an extremely challenging period, however whilst we enacted winter and festive plans... the pressures in the system in December and increased activity meant that performance was not in line with plan.”
It continues: “NWAS need to deliver much improved performance at category one (life threatening) and category two (emergency calls) and a need to reduce the long waits particularly under category two. Nationally NWAS is performing poorly against its peers for category one and two.”
The report points to reasons for poor performance which are beyond the control of NWAS.
“Increases in ambulance calls and responses have a material impact on the capacity and capability for the ambulance service to respond timely,” it states, adding: “Agreed system protocols require that A&E departments receive a handover of ambulance patients within 15 minutes of arrival.
“Since November 2017 NWAS have seen significant increase in these times with crews regularly waiting more than an hour in the A&E corridors.
“In December 2017 10,026 hours of ambulance time was lost with this excessive waiting, which equated to £1m of resource.”