Funding pledge to boost A&E staff numbers at Norfolk’s main hospital

Ambulances at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital on a busy evening.PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY

Ambulances at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital on a busy evening.PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY - Credit: Archant Norfolk

An extra 20 front-line staff are set to be recruited at Norfolk's main hospital after health chiefs pledged an extra £2.5m to try and ease pressure on its A&E department.

The new GP-led groups responsible for health services in central Norfolk made the added commitment yesterday following crunch talks to resolve ongoing patient handover delays and slow ambulance turnaround times at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.

Officials from the Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG) for Norwich, North Norfolk and South Norfolk said they would be providing an extra £2.5m this year to pay for more than 20 new nurses and doctors within emergency care. However, they admitted some of the funding had come from financial penalties paid by the N&N for not seeing 85pc of new 999 emergencies within 15 minutes last year.

The announcement followed a summit in Norwich between officials from the East of England Ambulance Service, Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and three CCGs yesterday to resolve ongoing concerns about patients waiting hours in the back of an ambulance at the front doors of the hospital.

Almost 15pc of patients wait more than an hour outside A&E at the N&N, and the ambulance service has highlighted the Colney hospital as the worst performing for handover delays across the six counties it serves.

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The ambulance service has also pledged to develop how it tracks its vehicles to ensure the hospital has better information about their estimated arrival times.

Officials hope the latest developments will eradicate handover delays of more than 60 minutes and ensure that 95pc of patients are seen, treated, admitted or discharged within four hours of arrival.

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Krishna Sethia, medical director at the hospital said: 'We are delighted that additional funding for our teams providing emergency care has been agreed by the Clinical Commissioning Groups in recognition of the significant additional demand for these services. Our commitment is that this money will be spent on front-line clinical staff and will enable the implementation of our new and innovative system of care which has been designed and led by our clinical teams for the benefit of patients.'

The extra funding is part of Project Domino - a partnership aiming to find long-term solutions to growing pressure on NHS urgent and emergency care services, involving all NHS partners and social care. The hospital is also looking to redesign its A&E to improve capacity further.

Dr Chris Price, chairman of the Norwich CCG said: 'These changes may take time to put in place and all of the partners recognise there is still much to do. But these are important, positive changes which we believe will help. Issues around ambulance response times in rural Norfolk and pressure on our hospitals are not new and neither are we alone, there is rising demand for urgent NHS all over the country.'

The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital 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 ten months was 76pc.

The hospital's director of medicine and emergency care told the Norfolk Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee last month that it could have to pay financial penalties of up to £3.5m a year to CCGs if it continued to fail to hit its A&E targets.

Dr Anoop Dhesi, North Norfolk CCG chairman, said: 'Long delays for ambulances in rural North Norfolk is one of the biggest areas of concern for local GPs. We need a system-wide solution to this problem and we are pleased that the two main players, the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and the East of England Ambulance Service, are working closely together to improve the service for local patients.'

Andrew Morgan, interim chief executive of the East of England Ambulance Service added: 'We are committed to continuing to work together to resolve these issues and improve the services patients receive from the ambulance service and the hospital.'

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