Last Friday I held talks with local NHS bosses and the South West Ambulance Trust to discuss their plan for resolving the problems with ambulances ‘stacking up’ outside local hospitals.
As I know from a visit to A&E with one of my own children recently, some ambulances are experiencing delays in handing over patients. That prevents them getting back out on the road and answering 999 calls as quickly as normal.
There’s no single reason for congestion in the system, but the single biggest cause seems to be the number of patients in Cheltenham General and Gloucestershire Royal who are deemed ‘fit for discharge’ but who remain in hospital. The national average across England is 14%, but here in Gloucestershire it is 30% .
Gloucestershire’s MPs have been assured that a clear plan is now in train to improve the situation.
This includes stationing frailty staff at the front door of emergency departments to prevent unnecessary admissions. Social care staff are also being hired by the Clinical Commissioning Group and deployed on the wards to speed up care assessments. ‘Same Day Emergency Care’ will encourage direct booking into assessment and diagnostic services to avoid waits in ED. And Hospital Ambulance Liaison Officers will act as a liaison between the clinical teams.
It’s vital too to ensure that those who can be treated at home are not admitted unnecessarily. That’s why a new falls service is being set up with expansion of the Community Assessment Treatment Unit.
Through these initiatives, Trust bosses expect to reduce the current ‘fit for discharge’ figure from 230 patients to 150 by May 2023.
In doing so, the Trust must bring urgent care up to the high standard of Gloucestershire’s elective care recovery, which is going from strength to strength as the Covid backlogs are cleared.
We will continue to hold regular meetings to press for progress.
[Column first published in the Glos Echo]