A North West Ambulance Service worker described scenes outside the new Royal Liverpool Hospital as "carnage" as ambulances queued for hours.
A source close to the ECHO described chaotic scenes outside the Royal Liverpool Hospital Emergency Department in recent days as ambulances were held for hours. The source, who works for North West Ambulance Service, told the ECHO patients brought to the hospital in an ambulance are being held for hours as there are not enough beds.
According to the ECHO source, ambulance crews are having to continue to treat patients on the ambulances while they wait for beds to free up. The Royal Liverpool Hospital only has space for "four crews to queue inside", meaning queues of ambulances are forced to wait in the hospital car park.
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The source said on Saturday, October 22, there was a queue of "over 26 ambulances," before adding "the crews are being forced to wait in no man's land". And because ambulance staff are having to provide treatment to patients until their care is electronically signed over to the hospital, crews who would normally do "10 jobs a day are only doing one".
A spokesperson for Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Trust, who represents the Royal Liverpool Hospital, told the ECHO the issues surrounding ambulance drop offs are a national issue. The ECHO understands North West Ambulance Service has also not officially complained about the drop off times at the Royal Liverpool Hospital.
The Guardian reported earlier this week that paramedics in England cannot respond to 117,000 urgent 999 calls every month because they are stuck outside hospitals looking after patients. The Care Quality Commission warned in its annual report that the NHS was "gridlocked" and "in crisis" and health service bosses feared long waits for care were so common that the risk of harm to those affected is "a worrying new status quo".
The Manchester Evening News also reported last week that an unidentified patient had died of cardiac arrest in the back of an ambulance outside Fairfield General Hospital while waiting for a bed. The hospital and North West Ambulance Service are investigating.
The ECHO spoke today with a woman who said her 88-year-old mum was brought in to the Royal Liverpool Hospital in an ambulance at midday yesterday. But her mum, who has query delirium, was still waiting in a hospital corridor at 8am today.
The daughter said: "My mum has been primarily looked after by paramedics who have to stay with the patients they drop off. The paramedics have been amazing. But we have been in one makeshift room and then moved to three different corridor queues." The ECHO understands the mum and daughter have not made an official complaint to the hospital at this time.
The ECHO North West Ambulance Service source added: "The ambulances are there to take a patient into hospital - they are not a hospital on wheels. This is not the time where we struggle. We aren't experiencing the winter pressures yet. We are at risk of this happening every day."
Dr Fiona Lemmens, Deputy Medical Director for NHS Cheshire and Merseyside, said: “As is the case in many parts of the country, we are currently experiencing significant pressures across all services as we deal with the backlog arising from the COVID-19 pandemic along with the growing impact of seasonal flu and continued COVID-19 infections. We are entering a challenging winter period and at times this is resulting in longer handover times for ambulance crews at our hospitals. We apologise for the impact this has on patients and their families and want to assure them that patient safety is our top priority. Our staff are working in challenging circumstances and we want to thank them for their continued dedication to their patients and the wider community.
“As well as the challenges for staff and patients in the ambulance service and emergency departments, there is also significant pressure in other areas including social care and because of this we are working collaboratively with partners in all parts of the health and care system to address the delays people are experiencing.
“We would encourage people who are eligible to get their flu vaccination and COVID-19 booster as soon as possible and to help us by doing what they can to stay well, this not only benefits the NHS but everyone across Cheshire and Merseyside. NHS services remain open and available for everyone who needs them this winter and we would encourage those who require urgent medical help to continue to come forward.”
Dr Jim Gardner, Chief Medical Officer at Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “It is widely recognised that Accident and Emergency Departments are faced with significant pressures and we are taking the necessary action to maintain the safety, care and dignity of patients in our hospitals, which is our overriding priority.
“I would like to thank patients and their families for their understanding at this time. I also want to thank all our colleagues for their commitment to delivering care for all the people who arrive at our hospitals and for their exceptionally hard work on behalf of our patients. We continue to work collaboratively with our partner organisations in health and social care, such as North West Ambulance Service, to manage the pressures on our services.
“Everyone can help us to care for our sickest patients by only using A&E when they really need to and by contacting NHS 111 to find the most appropriate service when they have other less urgent concerns.”
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