Dozens of A&E patients faced lengthy handover delays at Sherwood Forest Hospitals Trust after arriving by ambulance at the start of the month, with key figures in the industry saying that the coronavirus pandemic has simply made the ‘hidden’ problem of hospital overcrowding more visible in recent months.
Despite the figures, the trust's ambulance handover figures are still lower than elsewhere in the Midlands.
NHS England data shows of the 686 people arriving at A&E by ambulance in the week to December 5, 32 waited more than 30 minutes before being handed over to A&E staff – with one waiting more than an hour.
Chief operating officer for Sherwood Forest Hospitals, Simon Barton said: “We continue to work with our system partners to ensure that all of our patients are seen in a timely way.
"We are sorry that a small number of patients have had to wait longer than we would have liked and we are working hard to improve this.
“We continue to have some of the lowest ambulance handover times in the Midlands and I would like to thank colleagues for their continued efforts to provide outstanding care to our patients.
“Our A&E continues to be busy and we would urge the public to use 111 in the first instance if it is not a life-threatening accident or emergency.”
The Royal College for Emergency Medicine said the ‘dreadful’ delays nationally were causing serious harm to patients and driving staff to leave the NHS.
Dr Ian Higginson, vice president at the RCEM, said: “Emergency departments were thought of as having elastic walls – we would desperately try to get patients in to release ambulances back onto the road.
“That meant we would bring patients into emergency departments and would end up putting them in corridors and doubling up patients in cubicles which led to crowding.”
Covid infection control measures meant staff could no longer do this.
He continued: “A problem hidden inside emergency departments became very visible.
“There has been a chronic long-term failure in leadership and planning around the emergency care system and the NHS for many years.
“Repeated warnings have been ignored.”