A patient spent more than 28 hours being handed over to emergency room staff by paramedics over Christmas, it has emerged.
Horrifying figures from the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service have illustrated in shocking detail the extent to which the NHS is unable to care for some of the sickest patients.
Statistics have shown that health trusts have failed to meet a new three-hour handover target in one in six cases since the guideline was introduced by health chiefs last month.
They also highlighted an alarming postcode lottery in performance, with a third of handovers at the South Eastern Trust taking longer than three hours compared to a 3% injury rate of the target at the Western Trust.
According to the figures, the longest handover took place at the South Eastern Trust, where NIAS staff spent 28 hours, 32 minutes and 11 seconds with a patient before hospital staff could take over care of the person.
The longest handover time was 23 hours and 25 minutes at the Belfast Trust, followed by the Northern Trust at 18 hours, 48 minutes and 51 seconds and 11 hours, two minutes and 35 seconds at the Southern Trust.
The longest wait time recorded by the Western Trust was seven hours, 47 minutes and 22 seconds.
The impact of delayed handovers in Emergency Departments (EDs) is underscored by the subsequent shocking delays critically ill patients have experienced while waiting for paramedics in recent weeks.
According to NIAS figures, the longest response time to a Category 1 call – when a patient is suffering from an immediate life-threatening emergency such as cardiac arrest or catastrophic bleeding – was one hour and nine seconds.
The longest response time to a category two call, which includes stroke and heart attack, was on New Year’s Eve at just under 18 hours.
According to government targets, paramedics should reach category 1 calls within eight minutes and 18 minutes for category 2 calls.
A NIAS spokesman said: “Handover times in hospitals remain the biggest challenge in terms of ambulance response times.
“A range of measures were announced by all Trusts, including NIAS, ahead of Christmas to improve the flow of patients through hospitals and reduce patient risk associated with overcrowded emergency departments and delayed rescue operations.
“One of those actions was specific to ambulance handover times, which have been a major factor in the delayed response of ambulances to patients in the community whose needs are most urgent.
“The pressure in the health and social system has meant that handover times have increased in recent years.
“It was not uncommon for NIAS staff to wait more than three hours, and occasionally much longer, to transfer patients to negative pressure EDs.
“The announced measure before Christmas it should be ensured that no patient has to wait longer than three hours in an ambulance, bearing in mind that the delivery target for ambulances in emergency rooms remains 15 minutes.
“Ongoing monitoring by ambulance staff and clinicians within the emergency room would remain in place to prevent a patient’s condition from deteriorating.
“Any worsening observed would be escalated to the ED staff, who would then take appropriate action to provide the clinical care needed for the patient’s needs.
https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/patient-waits-longer-than-a-day-to-be-admitted-to-a-and-e-as-one-in-six-cases-miss-official-handover-target-42276214.html The patient waits more than a day to be admitted to the emergency room because one in six cases misses the official transfer goal