Ambulance crews ‘should declare major incident over hospital delays’

Unite Scotland said a major incident should be declared if patients face delays over being admitted to hospital.

Ambulance crews ‘should declare major incident over hospital delays’ Getty Images

The Scottish Ambulance Service should declare a ‘major incident’ at hospitals where emergency patients face delays to be admitted, it was claimed.

It comes after it was revealed last week patients were waiting six hours to be transferred to Glasgow’s Queen Elizabeth University Hospital.

The call for a major incident to be declared comes from Unite Scotland who said six hours was the average wait time at other hospitals.

A major incident is any occurrence that presents ‘serious threat to the health of the community’ and requires special arrangements to be implemented.

The status is currently normal but if the Scottish Ambulance Service elevate the status to major incident, then other public health bodies are required to immediately assist.

It would mean NHS Scotland or community health workers may be required to attend to a patient in the community, which could involve the setting up of clinical tents until paramedics are able to attend.

On average ambulance response to a 999 call can take between 55 minutes, and one hour and ten minutes, from call to completion.

But they are now said to be taking six hours on average due to NHS pressures.

Unite has also raised concerns over the potential risk to patients over clinical decision making due to fatigued ambulance staff.

Jamie McNamee, Unite Convenor at the Scottish Ambulance Service, said: “Unite has asked the Scottish Ambulance Service to declare a major incident status arising from excessive hospital turnaround times due to the significant impact on all outstanding 999 calls.

“The reality is that there are excessive waiting times for paramedics to attend to a patient in the community as they are being held up at hospitals.

“On average the waiting time taken for an emergency call out to a 999 call has grown from around one hour to six hours to complete.

“Due to the system overload in NHS Scotland, there is the potential for adverse clinical events to happen to patients in the community.

“It’s essential that we elevate the status immediately because having ambulance crews tied up for extensive periods and subsequent fatigue, due to the long hours, is a known public safety issue.”

“Lives of both the public and the crews are being put at risk.”

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