The East of England Ambulance Service has cut the average time it takes to hand patients over to West Suffolk Hospital and then return to standby positions, councillors on Suffolk’s Health Scrutiny Committee have heard.
In four months from June to September 2013, the number of incidents in which it took longer than 30 minutes to transfer a patient from an ambulance to the care of a hospital was cut from 13.62 per cent to around just two per cent.
At the James Paget the figure dropped from 17.54 per cent to the same level.
But average handover times at Ipswich Hospital have increased - from 4.28 per cent to 11.13 per cent.
The committee heard however how the hospital and ambulance service were working together to reduce handover times.
Over the same time period, the percentage of occasions in which it took longer than 30 minutes for the ambulance crew to clear a hospital dropped from 36.96 per cent to 16.81 per cent at Ipswich Hospital and 26.54 per cent to 8.66 per cent at the James Paget.
West Suffolk Hospital saw an increase from 18.58 per cent to 27.87 per cent.
Councillor Tony Goldson, chairman of Suffolk’s Health Scrutiny Committee, welcomed the overall improvements but said that more needed to be done to get the region’s ambulance service back to the level of service that people expect.
He said: “The ambulance service has come in for some serious criticism in recent months and residents would rightly expect the Health Scrutiny Committee to be in there, challenging the service on its performance and plans to improve.
“Whilst there are some mixed results, overall we are confident that the service is moving in the right direction and, importantly, taking the need to make improvements very seriously.
“Along with residents and the media, we will be keeping a very close eye on performance in the coming months and will certainly call senior ambulance service officials before us again in the new year.
“But for now, we should give the service the time it needs to make further improvements to its performance so that it can regain everyone’s trust.”
Councillors on the committee heard evidence from the service’s chief executive Andrew Morgan, director of clinical quality John Martin and operational managers.
It follows concerns about the performance of the ambulance service earlier in the year and another evidence session with the committee in July.
Committee members also heard how:
The East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust is looking to divert £20 million from its support services to frontline ambulance services, to provide more paramedics and ambulances.
Hospital ambulance liaison officers have been appointed at Ipswich Hospital and the James Paget Hospital to speed up the handover of patients.
Staff sickness has been reduced from 10 per cent to 6 per cent.
The number of complaints being received by the Trust is reducing.
Work is being done to improve staff morale, including setting up “pioneer teams” made up of front line staff tasked with identifying where services can be improved and then developing solutions.
Speaking after the meeting, Andrew Morgan, said: “We have put in place a comprehensive action plan to improve services to patients.
“It will take time to transform the organisation but we are starting to see some early signs of improvement and this is due to the continued hard work and dedication of our staff and managers.“
The committee is set to receive a further update in January 2014.