Seventeen ambulance crews were left queuing outside the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital in chaotic scenes, which meant they were unable to attend other 999 calls because of the long delays.

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An EDP photographer captured the long queue outside the N&N on Wednesday night after we received information about the serious tailbacks.

The 17 vehicles were the entire fleet of ambulances serving the N&N and officials from the East of England Ambulance Service said crews were not able to attend 12 other 999 calls because of the delays. As a result, other ambulances had to be drafted in from further afield.

A frustrated paramedic called the EDP to say: “This week has been horrendous. Ambulances have been parked up on the grass verge. It has been like it all week waiting three to four hours with patients. We cannot do anything here and it is extremely frustrating.”

Chris Cobb, director of medicine and emergency care at the hospital, said the level of new emergency attendances and admissions were “off the scale” this week. He added that the hospital should be able to cope with 15 ambulances turning up at once.

However, some private ambulances did not have the technology to let A&E know that they were turning up.

Wednesday night’s problems came ahead of a meeting yesterday where health chiefs admitted there were no quick fixes to slow ambulance turnaround times after it emerged that the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital could be hit by fines of up to £3.5m a year.

Members of the Norfolk Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee expressed their concern after Norfolk’s main hospital had been unable to address the problem of ambulances queuing at the front door of the Colney site with patients waiting to be seen by A&E staff.

Ambulance officials said the ongoing issue was contributing to the service’s slow response times in Norfolk, which has led to the trust receiving criticism from MPs and patients in recent months. Councillors were told that all NHS organisations in central Norfolk were working together to try to resolve the issue of handover delays. The N&N is required to meet a target of seeing 85pc of patients within 15 minutes of their arrival by ambulance. However, that figure for the last 10 months is 76pc.

Chris Cobb, director of medicine and emergency care at the N&N, said the foundation trust could be hit by financial penalties of up to £3.5m a year, which would pose a “significant impact.” He said that the hospital had struggled to recruit new A&E consultants and was looking to train up some new nurse consultants to improve services. He added that officials were drawing up plans to refurbish the front end of the hospital site to aid ambulance turnaround flow. The meeting heard that full beds in community hospitals and on inpatient wards in acute hospitals were creating a backlog at A&E and delaying new admissions.

Andrew Morgan, interim East of England Ambulance Service chief executive, said the trust had speeded up the time it took to get back on the road following patient handover as part of efforts to improve the performance of the NHS trust.

“I think we need more resources out there, but it is a bit chicken and egg. The more we put out there, the more we can add to the queue. Not being able to respond to a call keeps me awake at night. We want to respond to the calls that come in and if we are queuing we can not do that,” he said.

Jonathon Fagge, chief executive officer of the Norwich Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which will be responsible for the commissioning of health services in the Norwich area from April 1, said fines for ambulance handover delays aimed to be a deterrent. However, there was no “quick fix”, although he was optimistic that Project Domino, which was launched at the end of last year to improve emergency and urgent care in central Norfolk would start delivering results.

New figures show that between April and January, 42pc of ambulance journeys took more than the expected 30 minutes from arriving at hospital, handing over patients, and vehicle turnaround. .

A total of 5,412 East of England Ambulance Trust staff hours were lost in those 10 months because of delays at the N&N – the equivalent to 451 shifts.

20 comments

  • Isn't this farce a direct result of time targets for seeing patients in A&E? If they leave patients on the ambulance the clock does not start ticking until they hit the reception. We have an obvious under capacity in many of our region's hospitals. This causes distress and inconvenience and in some cases financial loss -eg babies being born in cars because mothers are refused admission to maternity wards. And patients (and their intended carers ) whose major surgery is cancelled at the last minute losing weeks of income from unnecessarily booked time off from work or cancelled work contracts if self employed. Something is very rotten when the money we pay into the NHS cannot come up with enough beds for a region and operates with no leeway at all for what should be considered reasonably probable eventualities. Wouldn't it be fair to expect the capacity of the region's hospitals to increase in line with the growing population?

    Report this comment

    Daisy Roots

    Friday, March 8, 2013

  • This is nothing new, when my wife was admitted in an emergency to The Good Hope Hospital in Sutton Coldfield in 2004 there were similar problems. After dialling 999 we got a paramedic very quickly but waited over an hour for an ambulance which even had to come from another district. The A & E when we got there was manic with queues of ambulances waiting to admit patients with many waiting in corridors on trolleys. The walk-in part of A & E was no better with dozens of people waiting.and queues to book in when the computer system went down. Staff while my wife was there having her operation were marvellous, doing their very best but obviously well overloaded with overcrowding and work. The trouble is this country will never learn, I imagine if I went there today little has changed just like the N & N trying to do the impossible without the infrastructure to back them up. We must build and plan for the future not the present or past. We just appear to want to build more and more houses regardless, bring more people into the region and then wonder why our overstretched hospitals, ambulance service, schools, doctors and roads, etc., cannot cope.

    Report this comment

    mike smith

    Friday, March 8, 2013

  • @Footyboy. get a life, we know who you are. Don't slag off the Ambulance Service. The problem is the NNUH. There are plenty of beds, they just choose to keep these free for elective(they get paid for surgery). A&E co-ordinator calls higher management, Higher management calls on call senior manager. Reply from senior manager "let's see how it goes" and goes back to bed !!!!!

    Report this comment

    Rolf

    Saturday, March 9, 2013

  • OK, so the turnaround time isn't great, and lack of beds is a problem, but wat about the people who turn up to a and e with a small cut or something which could be dealt with by a gp or phone advice, because it happens. There are hundreds of people admitted for stupid reasons "oh no, I have a cold, better go to a and e" and this does happen. Gp's need to take more responsibility too. The old patient waiting for a nursing home who are medically fit or needing rehab but can't get it elsewhere because the community hospitals are being shut Don't leave moody comments, I understand that its not good enough but its a chain reaction, a mixture of people not understanding the meaning if a and e, and long term patients who have nowhere else to go. I agree also that management need to sort it too, but perhaps its not as black and white as first thought. And please don't blame the staff in the emergency units, they try their best in difficult situations, if the bigwigs sitting at their desk actually knew what they were doing then we might have a chance!

    Report this comment

    bella-rose

    Tuesday, March 12, 2013

  • It's not as simple as an ambulance crew turning up and then "leaving" the patient in the care of the hospital. People being left alone on trolleys in corridors who haven't been assessed is ridiculously unsafe and is another Mid-Staffordshire scandal waiting to happen.

    Report this comment

    MPJ87

    Friday, March 8, 2013

  • It doesn't look like they get much choice, Valpy, even if it is an emergency.

    Report this comment

    Jono

    Friday, March 8, 2013

  • If these people can sit on an ambulance for 3 hours, it's not an emergency is it? Just goes to show how people abuse the system.

    Report this comment

    Valpy Word

    Friday, March 8, 2013

  • A total laughing stock from the N&N to the Ambulance so called Service.. a total JOKE !!!.. How can you take these people seriously.. what would they have done if there had been a major incident at Norwich airport with a passenger plane there would of been total melt down...

    Report this comment

    Footyboy16

    Friday, March 8, 2013

  • Its all been said a million times over already. Check out the trust boards (N&NUH and EEAS), once you have researched you will soon realise these people are wholly inappropriate to run our NHS and we should start lobbying for their immediate removal. We need real people who want to make things work, not the current politically-appointed bureaucrats and cronies.

    Report this comment

    Police Commissioner ???

    Friday, March 8, 2013

  • Further to my previous comments. The main trouble is the atrocious administration of A&E. Not the ambulance service who cannot try any harder. Leave them alone and concentrate on the totally chaotic lack of management in A&E. Norman Lamb...listen to the public and fire those responsible for this state of affairs.

    Report this comment

    MIKEJ

    Friday, March 8, 2013

  • "However, some private ambulances did not have the technology to let A&E know that they were turning up." - Ha Ha, brilliant, no mobile phones?

    Report this comment

    Frank Fryup

    Friday, March 8, 2013

  • How ridiculous to fine the hospital when that money could be used to finance more staff!! You can hardly blame the A&E department if they have a backlog they can't clear because A - they have very seriously ill people to deal with or B - they have nowhere to send people after they have been dealt with!! It's not A&E or the Ambulance Service who are at fault, it's the next part of the system that needs addressing. We need more beds and more staff. We told them that hospital would not be big enough before it was built!!

    Report this comment

    Carol Bolton

    Friday, March 8, 2013

  • Who do we turn to? Our MP's? lol

    Report this comment

    Bruce87

    Friday, March 8, 2013

  • This is obviously the direct effect of to much counting and not enough doing, the figures which are generated by the counters will be passed onto the bean counters and made to tell what ever story managers what them to. That's why most of the public services (what's left of them) are failing when the figures might say other wise. It's also what takes the Great from the front of Britain.

    Report this comment

    parkeg1

    Friday, March 8, 2013

  • Well said, Dave. They need what the military call a Casualty Clearing Station where triage, emergency life-saving, and pain relief can be done. Perhaps we should call on the Army to show us how to do it - good training & experience. Not an ideal solution - just a "quick fix" - but since ambulances have a capacity for more than one patient it ought to be possible to double up the patients where space is available in order to release ambulance crews for further duty. There was talk yesterday of bonuses being forfeited in the event of a penalty against the N&N; this is probably not applicable but some sort of payment-by-results across the entire A&E dept and senior management [so it's not just the front line that takes the hit] might lead to an improvement in performance. Retailers seem to be able to run up a new store [with all the aircon and refrig installed] in about six months. Not so easy for an A&E facility perhaps, but if people stopped waffling about it and defending themselves all the time something better could be done by this time next year [bonuses all round if it's early].

    Report this comment

    JCW

    Friday, March 8, 2013

  • Is it not about time some serious questions need to be asked. The N&N was a brand new hospital - who has designed a hospital that does not work for A+E clearly the department is not big enough for the demand - someone made a lot of money out designing it and the management team should have thought about their requirements before any bricks were laid. paying money does not fix this problem - We should be grilling the Government to sort this out as we will loose tourist trade as it appears if you have an accident it will be a lottery if you even get to a hospital.

    Report this comment

    Lisa Johnstone

    Friday, March 8, 2013

  • The NHS is full of managers who cannot manage. Let see a large part privatised and compare how they do. The NHS has lived in a left wing bubble for far to long.

    Report this comment

    Johnny Norfolk

    Friday, March 8, 2013

  • Surely once an ambulance turns up at a hospital then the patient should be left in the care of the hospital. Having trained crews and equipment tied up for 2 to 3 hours each time and 17 ambulances in a queue is farcical. It is similar at the JPH and others as we know. Why not build an emergency observation and assessment room to buffer the intake and free up ambulances? We can't have this ridiculous life threatening farce continuing... sort it out, NOW!

    Report this comment

    Dave01

    Friday, March 8, 2013

  • I don't know why you're getting all worked up. Norman Lamb has it all under control. Why else would the EDP keep putting his grinning face in with these stories?

    Report this comment

    Jeffrey Osborne

    Friday, March 8, 2013

  • "However, some private ambulances did not have the technology to let A&E know that they were turning up." - Ha Ha, brilliant, no mobile phones?

    Report this comment

    Frank Fryup

    Friday, March 8, 2013

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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