Hospital puts patients in former office in bid to tackle ambulance queues

Queen's Hospital

Queen's Hospital in Romford is the worst in north east London for ambulance handovers, according to an operational note published online - Credit: Archant

Queen’s Hospital is unloading patients into an old records office in a bid to speed up ambulance turnaround times.

The hospital is calling the space the ARC (Ambulance Receiving Centre) and is using it as “an overflow area when no spaces are available in the Emergency Department”, according to an operational note seen by this newspaper.

The note said Queen’s was “the most challenged” hospital in north east London when it came to ambulance handovers.

"They have repurposed what used to be the medical records department,” said Jason Frost, Havering Council’s cabinet member for health.

“They’ve created temporary bays, similar to a pop-up emergency department.”

Last month, the Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust (BHRUT) – which runs Queen’s – was one of the worst performing in the country for delays to admissions and emergency treatment.

In November, 919 people – 43 per cent of all patients delivered by ambulance that month – had to wait more than 30 minutes to be handed over to the hospital.

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Of those, 262 had to wait more than an hour; the target is 15 minutes.

The trust also came last in a national ranking for timely treatment by a Type 1 A&E department.

Over 70 per cent of patients had to wait more than four hours.

BHRUT was the third-worst trust in the country for patients waiting more than 12 hours between being told they needed to be admitted and actually being admitted.

In November, 680 patients were left waiting more than 12 hours. That’s almost one patient per hour for the entire month.

The operational note said “increased demand associated with the current pandemic” had caused capacity issues across London.

Asked why its Romford hospital was worse-affected than others, BHRUT did not respond.

Jason Frost

Jason Frost, Havering Council's cabinet member for health, said the borough's ageing population placed extra strain on Queen's Hospital - Credit: Archant

But Cllr Frost said he believed it was “a lot to do with the demographics of our population”.

“We have the largest number of care homes in greater London,” he said, adding that Queen’s was already serving a large population of “older people with complex conditions” even before the pandemic hit.

He added that the hospital’s location meant it was “taking some of the strain from south Essex as well.”

A BHRUT spokesperson said: “We are working closely with our partners to tackle pressure in the health system. Our newly introduced ARC is a great example of this.

"Working closely with the London Ambulance Service (LAS), we’ve introduced ARC to allow patients to be cared for safely by LAS and trust staff while waiting to be seen in our Emergency Department, releasing ambulance crews to see other patients in need.”

The London Ambulance Service said: “We are exceptionally busy at the moment and are continuing to collaborate with our NHS partners across the capital to find innovative ways to reduce delays and improve patient care.

“One example of this is the ARC recently opened at Queen’s Hospital, Romford.

"This is a safe, equipped space at the hospital allowing patients to be monitored with more privacy and dignity until there is a space available within the A&E, and which allows more ambulance crews to get back on the road to help their next patient.”