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Hospitals ordered to ‘eliminate’ ambulance queues after two deaths reported

Hospitals in England have been to be ordered to “eliminate” ambulance queues outside hospitals after two deaths were linked to handover delays.

NHS bosses highlighted the “risk to patient safety” in the letter which tells trusts to end all handover delays and stop using ambulances as emergency department “cubicles”.

Ambulance leaders have described the “highest level of emergency activity in history” and reports from around the country paint a bleak picture of ambulances queuing for hours outside busy hospitals.

An investigation was launched after it was reported that a patient died at Worcestershire Royal Hospital following a five-hour wait in an ambulance at the doors of the emergency department.

And it has also been reported that a woman died in the back of an ambulance following a handover delay at Addenbrookes hospital in Cambridgeshire.

It comes as West Midlands Ambulance Service raised its risk rating for handover delays to its highest possible level for the first time in its history.

The risk rating shows that the trust believes that patient harm is “almost certain” due to the handover delays.

Documents from the trust board show one patient was cared for by ambulance staff for “over 13 hours” and on October 4 average handover times were “hours” instead of minutes.

“Unfortunately, there have been several cases where severe patient harm has occurred due to the hospital delay,” the documents state.

The separate letter from NHS England bosses to all acute hospitals states that handover delays represent “unacceptable clinical risk” for both for patients waiting in ambulance queues and those in the community whose emergency care is delayed.

“Given current performance and the risk to patient safety, we must however press to identify further solutions to eliminate all handover delays,” it states.

It adds that patients should be considered under the “responsibility” of the hospital from the moment the ambulance arrives.

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