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Ambulance bosses fear winter delays in getting patients into hospital

PUBLISHED: 17:44 05 September 2019 | UPDATED: 17:45 05 September 2019

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn pictured in 2018. Picture: Ian Burt

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn pictured in 2018. Picture: Ian Burt

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Ambulance bosses fear winter could bring delays in getting patients into the Queen Elizabeth Hospital - with people already facing an average wait of almost 40 minutes.

Alexandra Kemp, independent Norfolk county councillor for Clenchwarton & King's Lynn South division. Picture: Ian BurtAlexandra Kemp, independent Norfolk county councillor for Clenchwarton & King's Lynn South division. Picture: Ian Burt

While handover times - the time it takes to get patients from ambulances into the care of hospital staff -have improved at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital have improved in recent months, they have worsened in King's Lynn.

East of England Ambulance Service crews aim to hand patients over to hospital staff within 15 minutes, so they can get back out on the road to more emergency calls.

If hospitals are unable to accept patients, ambulance crews need to wait with patients.

Last December, more than 700 patients waited more than an hour outside Norfolk hospitals.

And, at a meeting of Norfolk's health overview and scrutiny committee on Thursday, ambulance bosses said they were worried about this winter.

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Nick Cason, from the East of England Ambulance Service, said a new system at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital had helped reduce delays there.

As of August, the average handover time was just over 25 minutes, while at the James Paget University Hospital in Gorleston it was just under 18 minutes.

But at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn it was just under 40 minutes.

Mr Cason said that was cause for concern with winter - a time when hospitals are under particular pressure - approaching.

He said: "We are struggling in the west of the county. It is not where we want to be. We do have concerns going into winter and we are working with them to alleviate some of those concerns."

Alexandra Kemp, independent county councillor for Clenchwarton and King's Lynn South, said: "This is a real problem. We have got half as many patients at the QEH as the NNUH, but double the wait."

Sarah Jones, deputy chief operating officer at the QEH, said: "We have been working on ambulance handovers, and improvements have already been made. However we acknowledge further improvements need to be made.

"We have commissioned external support to help us improve patient flow through the hospital, which will have a direct impact on ambulance handover times."

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