30 minute target set for ambulance handovers at Luton & Dunstable Hospital

The target has been set for March
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A target is being set to prevent ambulance handovers at the Luton and Dunstable Hospital lasting more than half an hour by the end of March, a meeting heard.

The East of England Ambulance Trust recognises these handovers are still not as good as they should be, according to a report to the borough council’s scrutiny health and social care review group.

“There’s more work needed to further improve response times across our region,” it said. The trust provides accident and emergency services to patients requiring urgent medical treatment and transport in Bedfordshire and five other counties.

Luton and Dunstable Hospital sign. Picture: National WorldLuton and Dunstable Hospital sign. Picture: National World
Luton and Dunstable Hospital sign. Picture: National World

The trust’s director of quality Simon Chase explained: “We’re still suffering rather protracted handover delays at hospitals, not just locally to Luton.

“This issue around being unable to unload on arrival is regional and national. A target has been set with the Luton and Dunstable Hospital management to have no handover delays of more than 30 minutes by the end of March.”

Labour High Town councillor Umme Ali said: “This is indicative of what the UK is facing with pressures on the healthcare system in general, especially the hospital handover times.

“It’s so counter-productive, as you’ve got the ambulances ready to go and then the staff can’t offload.”

LBC’s corporate director population wellbeing Mark Fowler wondered about the impact of delays on patient health, whether this is tracked and if it led to fatalities.

Mr Chase suggested: “If there were ten ambulances outside the Luton and Dunstable Hospital and a patient went into cardiac arrest it would be difficult to road map to say that was an absolute cause.

“If (ambulance handover times) gets to 40, 50 or 60 minutes this has an indirect impact on patient harm, but it’s hard to identify that because there are usually other factors.

“I’m not aware of a fatality caused by a delay in this area. We’ve had serious incidents declared where there was a direct correlation, outside of this area, and where we’ve reported our belief the primary cause was the delay.”

Liberal Democrat Stopsley councillor Richard Underwood, who chairs the group, referred to the culture of the trust around sexual harassment and bullying within it, asking: “Is this no longer taking place?”

Mr Chase confirmed the situation “is improving, not improved”, adding: “We’ve seen a reduction in cases coming forward, which is positive.

“The culture is better. This should be eradicated from the workplace. People feel braver to speak about these issues or other staff members are calling out behaviour earlier.

“We’ve signed up to a sexual safety charter produced by NHS England and the association of ambulance chief executives (AACE).”

Asked about staffing, Mr Chase replied: “Our attrition rate was probably up to nearly 40 per cent, 18 months ago, with most of those leaving within the first two years. That’s not a great place to be.

“A more recent report indicated less than ten per cent of new starters left in their first two years. Our retention figures are improving across the trust. We’re at full capacity for the Luton and Bedfordshire area, with no vacancies.”

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