A hospital trust’s decision to fine patient transport ambulances £70 if they spend longer than 20 minutes unloading patients has been criticised by a health union.
It followed the decision by bosses at the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle to extend parking restrictions around its main entrance to include patient transport vehicles operated by the North East Ambulance Service.
The NEAS declined to comment about the move by hospital bosses, but Joel Byers, NEAS branch secretary for Unison, said the decision to extend £70 fines to NHS ambulances unloading patients was “a bit draconian.”
Mr Byers said:
“You can’t just drop patients off in reception you have to take them to where they are going and that could be a ward at the furthest point from the entrance. Allowing 20 minutes to do this is not appropriate.”
The Unison official and staff side secretary added:
“If patients were able to walk or get in on their own it wouldn’t be an issue, but many need to be helped to get to where they are going.”
Mr Byers said it looked as if the Newcastle Hospitals Trust was seeking to fine people for doing their job.
“It’s a stressful enough job to start with without being pressured and worried about going over the 20 minutes. Aren’t we all supposed to be in the same Health Service?”
“Other vehicles including general public, staff, commercial suppliers and non-urgent passenger carrying, including taxis and ‘personnel carriers’ which may involve patient transport, are expected to respect the need for continuous traffic flow in this area, albeit some tend to park up when there are nearby designated patient transport holding bays that can be utilised as and when the need arises.
“North East Ambulance Service staff who utilise ‘personnel carriers’ and other ‘non-urgent’ forms of vehicles are not excluded from the restriction which is to achieve continuous traffic flow and safety as the overriding consideration. Simply to park up in restricted areas is unacceptable hence the risk of a parking charge notice.”
Source – Northern Echo, 09 Nov 2014
Fears have been raised that the region’s ambulance service is struggling following incidents where patients have been left for hours.
In recent weeks issues have arisen where elderly patients have been left waiting for paramedics from the North East Ambulance Service to arrive.
Frances Logan, 94, of Hetton-le-Hole, suffered a fall in her apartment and was left lying on the floor for three hours until an ambulance finally turned up.
In another incident this Monday, an elderly woman who fell at Beaconsfield Avenue, Low Fell, Gateshead, was left lying on the pavement for more than two-and-a-half hours until emergency services arrived.
Meanwhile, this Wednesday a Health and Care Professions Council hearing will look into the conduct of former North East paramedic, Mark P Lakinski, who is alleged to have failed to transport a patient directly to hospital as his shift was due to end and he handed the patient over to another paramedic so he could be relieved from duty. The patient later died at hospital.
Union officials and a leading North MP have now warned that crews are being spread too thinly as the face increasing pressures.
Joel Byers, Unison branch secretary for the North East Ambulance Service said: “Paramedics are working very hard, but there is a lack of resources and a lack of paramedics. It is down to cuts that ambulance services are facing. The cuts were not supposed to affect patient care or the frontline, but they have.
“Paramedics are under increasing pressure and some are leaving the profession to pursue different careers or are moving abroad. Pressures are such that staff can’t get finished on time and they can’t get their meal breaks.”
Newcastle East MP Nick Brown said he was concerned that the strain on the ambulance service was “now intolerable” and more investment was required to tackle the problems the service is facing.
He said: “We can’t go on like this. The ambulance service cannot be the only point of contact with healthcare. The strain on the service is now intolerable. Nor is it fair to put further pressure on hospital’s A&E departments. In many cases this amounts to the same thing.
“The North East Ambulance Service is regarded as one of the best in the country but it is being overwhelmed by increased demand. The answer is further investment in the service itself and in the work of General Practice. There is also a strong case for clamping down on hoax calls and misuse of the service.”
Health chiefs at the North East Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust said both the elderly women’s falls were correctly categorised by as Green 3, the lowest priority available.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 06 July 2014
Paramedics will today hold crisis talks as the North East Ambulance Service reveals the full extent of Government cuts.
Ambulance staff will meet at a seminar to ask just who cares for the carers, and what can be done to force NHS bosses to better fund them.
The service will warn that Government-ordered 20% budget cuts mean patients are sometimes waiting more than two hours for a vehicle, while rapid response staff are waiting five hours in a patient’s home with the patient waiting for transport.
In a damning list of support failings set to go to NHS chiefs, the service will warn that: staff morale is at an all-time low; assaults on staff have shot up; paramedics are spending hours in A&E waiting for a bed for patients.
Union leaders say the service is having to call in volunteers from St John’s Ambulance to help out even o n some emergency calls.
Just last week it was reported home patients in the North East are being forced to wait up to six hours for an ambulance despite guidelines saying paramedics should arrive within 30 minutes.
One patient had to wait more than three hours after the emergency was categorised as ‘red2’, which is potentially life-threatening and has a target time of eight minutes.
Figures obtained by The Journal from a Freedom of Information request showed that the North East Ambulance Service failed to meet their target response times on 10 separate occasions in a 12-month period.
Staff at the meeting in Durham today will discuss what to do about growing work pressures. They say that late finishes appear now to be nearly every shift, there are late meal breaks, if any at all, and will warn that crews are regularly facing angry families when arriving on a job knowing that the patient had been waiting for a while.
Paramedics will hear from North East Labour MEP candidate Jude Kirton-Darling, who will warn that a Conservative victory in elections this May could see EU working limits scrapped, making the situation worse.
Joel Byers, Unison’s North East Ambulance Service staff secretary, said: “Government cuts have forced ambulance trusts to cut 20% of their budget year on year but stating patient care should not be affected. This is an impossible task as the majority of our budget is for frontline services.
“The Commissioners are reluctant to pay extra money on a long-term basis to enable North East Ambulance Service to recruit more vitally needed staff. However, workloads have increased year on year with no extra resources except for the use of Private Ambulance Companies. The use of Private Ambulance Companies, First Responders and Police Cars is evidence in itself that there is a lack of resource in frontline staff.
“Every department from frontline, support services and HQ staff are undergoing restructures which are potentially putting staff at risk.
“The extra pressure being applied by the cuts is not just having emotional impact on staff but also a physical impact on staff in terms of assaults and injuries at work.
“For example the number of North East Ambulance Staff that have either suffered an injury at work or been assaulted has risen 590 in 2009 to 916 in 2013.
“With the ongoing pressure being placed on staff we expect the number to increase considerably in 2014.”
Last night he was backed by Ms Kirton-Darling, who said: “Ambulance workers in the North East have told me over the last few months they have experienced growing pressure as their working conditions deteriorate.
“Vital rest periods, set out in the European working time directive are there to ensure ambulance staff are able to operate safely and effectively on our behalf.
“Who in their right mind would want an ambulance worker dealing with a matter of life and death after a 12-hour shift without rest?
“The North East Ambulance Service must ensure decent rest periods and limit working time, otherwise I fear the service could face its own emergency soon with the public and workforce potentially put at risk.”
Source – Newcastle Journal 29 Jan 2014