Nearly half of ambulance patients who arrived at hospitals run by the East Suffolk & North Essex NHS Foundation Trust had to wait longer than 30 minutes to be handed to A&E last week. 

NHS England data has revealed the number of ambulance patients who waited at hospitals for more than 30 or 60 minutes before being handed over to A&E teams.

At East Suffolk & North Essex NHS Foundation Trust (ESNEFT), which runs Ipswich and Colchester hospitals, there were a total of 1,143 handovers where the time was known and 524 (46%) of these were longer than 30 minutes, meaning just under half waited more than half an hour. 

Some 206 (18%) of these handovers took longer than 60 minutes.

At West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (WSNFT), there were a total of 390 handovers where the time was known, 124 (32%) of which were longer than 30 minutes and 61 (16%) longer than an hour.

East Anglian Daily Times: 46% of ambulance patients at hospitals in East Suffolk and North Essex had to wait over 30 minutes for handovers last week46% of ambulance patients at hospitals in East Suffolk and North Essex had to wait over 30 minutes for handovers last week (Image: EEAST)

When handover times over 30 minutes were compared with the rest of the country, ESNEFT was the 32nd highest, while WSNFT was the 58th highest. 

The smallest trusts with less than 50 arrivals in the week ending December 10 were excluded from the data. 

The current target for handovers at hospitals is 30 minutes.

Unison union EEAS branch chair Glenn Carrington said: "The longer ambulances and their crews are stuck waiting at hospitals for handovers the less vehicles are available for people calling 999 in need of assistance. 

"Nobody joins the ambulance service to sit in a hospital car park; staff want to be on the road delivering care where it is most needed.

East Anglian Daily Times: Glenn Carrington, EEAS branch chair at Unison unionGlenn Carrington, EEAS branch chair at Unison union (Image: Unison)

"Long handover times are bad for staff, the services that we work hard to deliver, and most of all the patients."

The East of England Ambulance Service Trust has said last December saw a spike in demand with more than 110,000 999 calls, 45,000 of which were for people with serious or life-threatening emergencies.  

The trust said that in the last three months 119 frontline healthcare staff have joined, including 53 newly qualified paramedics and 48 emergency care assistants, and the trust is on course to recruit more than 450 people this financial year.

They have asked residents to help by only calling 999 in an emergency and said those seeking urgent advice should call 111 or visit NHS 111 online.

An East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust spokesperson said: “We are working closely with our NHS colleagues to reduce delays in hospital handovers as we know the impact this has on our ability to respond to patients.

“Ahead of winter we increased the number of frontline clinicians we have on the road and within our control centres and we are looking to increase those numbers further over the next few months.

“The public can play their part in supporting the NHS this winter by using 999 services wisely and seeking alternatives when it’s not a life-threatening emergency."

Dr Angela Tillett, chief medical officer at ESNEFT, said getting ambulances back on roads was a 'big priority' and, in partnership with EEAST, the trust was tracking and reviewing handover times so they can make improvements.

East Anglian Daily Times: Dr Angela TillettDr Angela Tillett (Image: Newsquest)

“We also work with our partners across the Suffolk and North East Essex Integrated Care System (ICS) to support discharge for our patients out of hospital as quickly and safely as possible. That way we can assess the people waiting with ambulance crews for care and treatment and make sure they receive timely care in our emergency and urgent services.

“It's a team effort to make sure all our patients receive safe and high-quality care at all times," she added.

West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust was approached for comment.