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Ambulance Handover Times

Volume 571: debated on Tuesday 26 November 2013

5. What recent assessment he has made of ambulance handover times at accident and emergency departments. (901262)

Patient handover is a key part of delivering good emergency care. Systems are in place to ensure efficient handover, but we recognise that it sometimes takes longer than the recommended 15 minutes, particularly during peaks of demand. We are taking the issue of handover delay seriously, which is why we have introduced financial sanctions for unacceptable delay.

Southport and Ormskirk hospital in my constituency has one of the longest handover times in the north-west, with ambulances queuing outside the hospital and patients lying on stretchers for hours. How does that offer the patient-centred care and dignity that the Government keep promising but failing to deliver? What can the Minister do to make it better for my constituents?

That sort of experience is not acceptable and has to be addressed, and I am sure the hon. Lady will welcome the encouraging news that the sanctions in the national contracts that clinical commissioning groups enter into with hospitals have resulted in a 38% reduction in delays, comparing the first two weeks of last November with the first two weeks of this November, which is the first period during which we measure winter pressures on handovers. That sign of a significant increase is to be welcomed.

As an east of England MP, the Minister will be aware of the problems with the East of England ambulance service and handover times at Broomfield hospital. While I warmly welcome the initiative, through the contract, to bring pressure to bear to reduce handover times to 15 minutes, will he join me in paying tribute to the new management of the ambulance service for what it is doing, through its assessments and monitoring, to deal with this problem?

I have had a similar experience at the Norfolk and Norwich hospital. It is clear that the number of delays in the east of England has reduced substantially, and I pay tribute to everyone involved. Getting urgent care right requires collaboration between ambulance trusts, acute care and GPs and social care workers on the ground. Significant improvements have been made in the east of England, as well as across the rest of the country.

The Minister surely knows that deteriorating ambulance handover times are just one of a growing number of signs highlighting what is going wrong with A and E on this Government’s watch. Now we see the Secretary of State and his Ministers in full panic mode after denying for months that there was a problem. The question is: why was the Health Secretary the last person in the entire NHS to realise that there was an A and E crisis?

It seems as if Labour is always desperately in search of a crisis, even if there is none to be found. If the hon. Gentleman had listened to the answer that I gave to the hon. Member for West Lancashire (Rosie Cooper), he would have heard me say that there had been a 38% improvement in waiting times for ambulance handovers between last November and this November. I am sure that he will welcome that.

I congratulate the Minister and the Government on the work that is being done to integrate social and NHS care. Does my hon. Friend agree that, for the many elderly patients moving between hospital care and community social care, integrated patient records across the two areas will significantly improve elderly care? Will he meet me and campaigners following Health questions to discuss my ten-minute rule Bill?

My hon. Friend deserves credit for that one. Of course I would be happy to have a chat with him. He makes a point about integrated care records. We should be focusing on ensuring that we do much more to keep frail and elderly people out of hospital in the first place. The system that we have inherited is dysfunctional, and the shift towards integrated care is exactly what needs to be done.