Sheffield A&E ‘drop-off’ plan for less seriously-ill ambulance patients

Northern General Hospital A&E department, Sheffield.
Northern General Hospital A&E department, Sheffield.
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Ambulances could soon ‘drop off’ patients at hospital in Sheffield – instead of paramedics waiting with casualties.

Yorkshire Ambulance Service is considering introducing a ‘self-handover’ system at the Northern General Hospital in Fir Vale for less seriously-ill patients.

Patients who are not acutely unwell would not be formally handed over, but would be left to wait in the accident and emergency department as if they had made their own way there.

It is already used at several sites across Yorkshire.

The move is designed to combat ambulance handover time delays, with paramedics normally having to wait with patients in casualty until hospital staff are free to take charge of their care.

Details were revealed in a report to the governing body of NHS Sheffield’s clinical commissioning group this week.

The report said there had been more than 2,000 occasions in January where there had been delays of more than 30 minutes in handing over patients from paramedics to hospital medical staff – with 652 delays of more than an hour.

These figures represented a reduction in delays on those recorded in December.

However, the report said there have been ‘particular problems’ in Sheffield in relation to passing patients over to casualty staff at the hospital.

It said: “The increase in delayed hand-overs has occurred across the geographical area served by Yorkshire Ambulance Service, not just in Sheffield.

“The ambulance service is keen to introduce ‘self handover’ at the Northern General, as it was identified as one of the hospitals in Yorkshire and the Humber with particular problems regarding patient handover.

“Hold-ups in YAS being able to hand over patients to A&E clinical staff offer a poor patient experience and it delays the service responding to other 999 calls.

“A clinical meeting was held in February, chaired by the CCG clinical lead for urgent care, to agree a plan to implement a ‘self-handover’ process at Northern General Hospital.”

The report also said there are sometimes ‘good reasons’ for a delay in hospital hand-overs, for example with patients requiring resuscitation.

And it said specialist centres can find their data is ‘skewed’.

The Northern General is one of three major trauma centres for the Yorkshire and Humber region.

It is also home to a number of specialist medical and surgical services including cardiac, orthopaedics, burns, plastic surgery, spinal injuries and renal units.

No-one from Yorkshire Ambulance Service was available for comment.