EXCLUSIVE: Accident and emergency nurses across London are being left unable to treat patients who are stuck outside in ambulances because of bed shortages.
Data released exclusively to Nursing Times has revealed the extent to which ambulances have sat outside A&E departments for more than an hour at a time, unable to handover patients.
The London Ambulance Service operation data shows there were 673 such incidents – known as “black breaches” in the first seven weeks of 2012. The strategic health authority is concerned about the problem across the capital, but there are some sites where it is particularly acute.
Queen’s Hospital in Romford reported 186 black breaches between the start of the year and 19 February. Northwick Park Hospital in Harrow had 105 over the same period, while University Hospital Lewisham recorded 84.
Andrew Frazer, chair of the Royal College of Nursing’s Emergency Care Association, said the issue was not confined to London and would affect other densely-populated areas.
Nurses were “frustrated” when patients were stuck outside A&E on an ambulance trolley, he said. “We want to provide good care – knowing you have patients who you aren’t able to bring in gives rise to considerable stress,” he added.
An NHS London spokeswoman said Northwick Park had seen a 10% increase in A&E attendances over the past three years combined with a “lack of bed capacity”. Bed capacity was also identified as an issue at Queen’s.
“Across Britain we have cut beds in order to save money,” Mr Frazer said. “We did that with the mantra that we will get more efficient but that hasn’t matched up.”