Rotherham Hospital reduces ambulance handover delay times
The number of ambulance crews waiting more than an hour to handover patients, also known as ‘black breaches’, stood at 37 in May compared with 99 in April – while the figure for the same month the previous year was six times higher at 226.
A steep drop was also noted in March with 95 breaches, down from February's 202.
As previously reported in the Advertiser, the record-breaking figure of black breaches to date was logged in November 2022 with 358 instances.
The NHS Operations Pressure Escalation Levels system uses rankings one to four, with OPEL 4 – sometimes referred to as a “black alert” – the most severe.
Ambulance handover delays for September last year also topped 300 instances and saw the hospital operating on OPEL level 4 for a prolonged period.
Speaking at the time, the hospital pointed to the impact of winter respiratory illnesses, Strep A and Covid and said ambulance handovers “reflected the national picture.”
But in his latest chief executive’s report, Dr Richard Jenkins noted that throughout April and May 2023, urgent and emergency care had operated at OPEL level 1 or 2.
At a previous board of directors' meeting in March this year deputy chief executive Michael Wright also said the emergency department was in a “far better place”, with “some green shoots coming through.”
The number of ambulance handovers taking between 30 minutes and an hour also dropped from 162 in April to 108 in May.
The figure for the same month the previous year was 267.
The trust’s integrated performance report noted the number of 12-hour trolley waits has remained at zero throughout the year to date.
It was also the first report to record the hospital's return to the four-hour A&E waiting time target.
In May 2019, the trust was selected by the government as one of 14 sites to pilot new emergency care standards, which introduced a new way of working including avoiding admission of patients by providing treatment within the emergency department.
The trust returned to the four-hour standard – and its 2022-23 target of 45 per cent – in March this year with a figure of 51 per cent.
In April it recorded 54.7 per cent and May was nearly 60 per cent.
Dr Jenkins said in his CEO report: "Nationally, a target has been set to achieve 76 per cent of all patients being seen, treated, admitted or discharged from the emergency department within four hours by March 2024, although the trust plans to achieve this by the end of October 2023."
Chief operating officer Sally Kilgariff said: “The trust is in the process of transitioning back to the four-hour standard for emergency care.
“There are a number of work-streams ongoing to help us achieve this and we are pleased to see that this work has already begun to positively impact on waiting times for patients in our urgent and emergency care centre, including ambulance handover times.”