Why the ambulance service is in trouble
By Trevor Carbin
The July meeting of the WC Health Scrutiny Committee heard from South Western Ambulance Service, which covers a huge area including Wiltshire. They have a problem of excessive waiting times for call-outs. It's caused mainly by the fact that when they take a patient to hospital there is often nowhere for the patient to go, so they have to wait in the ambulance, which has to wait at the hospital, which makes it unavailable for other people.
On the positive side the number of incidents requiring an ambulance call-out has reduced slightly in recent weeks, and the percentage of people not needing to go to a hospital has increased.
The problem peaked in April, when in one week 1600 resource hours were lost due to handover delays, with Bath's RUH being the main culprit. That's dropped to nearer 500 lost hours in recent weeks, which is still enough to severely disrupt the service.
It was pointed out at the meeting that ambulance staff are experts in pre-hospital care but they're not nurses, and shouldn't have to be looking after patients for hours.
SWAS has produced a plan to recover the situation, but so far the plan isn't working, and long waits for ambulances are likely to be with us for some time.