Ambulance handover delays highest since start of winter

Around one in eight delays were of more than an hour.

31 March 2022

More than a quarter of patients arriving by ambulance at hospitals in England last week waited at least 30 minutes to be handed over to A&E departments – the highest level since the start of winter, new figures show.

Some 21,051 delays of half an hour or longer were recorded across all hospital trusts in the seven days to March 27.

This was 26% of the 79,588 arrivals by ambulance.

The proportion of handovers delayed by at least 30 minutes has been rising in recent weeks, having stood at 20% in mid-February.

(PA Graphics)

Figures for ambulance delays are published by NHS England and the current data runs from the start of December 2021.

There were 9,225 arrivals last week – 12% of the total – who were kept waiting more than an hour to be handed to A&E teams, up from 10% in the previous week.

Analysis of the data by the PA news agency shows that Northern Lincolnshire & Goole NHS Foundation Trust reported the highest proportion of handovers delayed by at least 30 minutes last week (74%), followed by Gloucestershire Hospitals (71%), University Hospitals Plymouth (71%) and University Hospitals Bristol & Weston (68%).

University Hospitals Plymouth topped the list for handovers delayed by more than an hour (58%), followed by Northern Lincolnshire & Goole (57%), Gloucestershire Hospitals (54%) and University Hospitals Bristol & Weston (52%).

A handover delay does not always mean a patient has waited in the ambulance. They may have been moved into an A&E department but staff were not available to complete the handover.

The figures are another sign of the pressures hospitals are facing amid the latest rise in coronavirus infections.

HEALTH Coronavirus
(PA Graphics)

Separate data published on Thursday showed staff absences at NHS hospitals in England due to Covid-19 have jumped to their highest level since the end of January, with numbers climbing in all regions.

Absences averaged 27,571 a day last week – the equivalent of 3% of the workforce – up from 23,127 the previous week, though still some way below the 45,736 (5% of the workforce) reached in early January.

A total of 15,632 people were in hospital in England with Covid-19 as of March 30, up 18% week on week and the highest since January 19, NHS England said.

Patient numbers are nearing the peak reached in early January – 17,120 – but remain well below the 34,336 at the peak of the second wave of the virus at the start of 2021.

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