Saturday 3 December 2016

Most A&Es miss their 20-minute target for ambulance turnaround

Published 18/08/2016 | 02:30

Of 20,032 ambulance hospital attendances in May, just 5,820, or 29.1pc, had a turnaround within the 20-minute time frame (Stock picture)
Of 20,032 ambulance hospital attendances in May, just 5,820, or 29.1pc, had a turnaround within the 20-minute time frame (Stock picture)

Ambulances are missing their 20-minute turnaround time at the vast majority of the country's hospitals, according to new figures.

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In some cases, emergency workers are delayed for more than an hour at emergency departments before being released to respond to another call.

Overcrowding in A&E departments and a variety of other reasons mean that paramedics are forced to wait for long periods before getting their ambulance trolleys back.

Fianna Fáil's health spokesperson Billy Kelleher described the situation as "quite alarming".

Of 20,032 ambulance hospital attendances in May, just 5,820, or 29.1pc, had a turnaround within the 20-minute timeframe.

The best-performing hospital was Tallaght Paediatric, where 58pc of ambulances were back on the road within the recommended 20 minutes.

Our Lady's in Navan, Connolly Hospital and St James's were the only others to pass the 50pc mark.

At the other end of the scale, two hospitals had less than one in 10 ambulances getting back out on the road inside the recommended time period.

Galway recorded a success rate of just 8pc, while Mayo came in at 9.7pc.

Letterkenny, Sligo, University Hospital Limerick, Portiuncula, South Tipperary, Midland Regional Tullamore, Kerry and Cork University Hospital were all in the 10-20pc range.

Nationwide, 1,126 ambulance calls took more than an hour.

Referring to Galway and Mayo, Mr Kelleher said: "It is quite alarming that an ambulance going to either of these two hospitals is almost twice as likely to have to wait an hour or more than to reach the turnaround target."

The National Ambulance Service collates 'ambulance turnaround times' from the National Computer Aided Dispatch System, which electronically records the arrival time of the ambulance at the hospital and the time that the ambulance is ready and available to respond to another call.

The time includes clinical handover at the accident and emergency department.

"Of course, missing turnaround targets has a knock-on effect for the ambulance service, as it makes it harder to respond to new call-outs in the target time if paramedics are delayed at hospitals," Mr Kelleher said.

He added: "Unsurprisingly, many of the hospitals with low turnaround rates also experience overcrowding in their emergency departments.

Paramedics

"The delays in transferring patients are clearly not the fault of the ambulance service. Rather, they are symptomatic of the ongoing difficulties in our acute hospitals."

Connolly Memorial Hospital and St James's Hospital, both in Dublin, have the best average turnaround times of 21 and 22 minutes respectively.

In contrast, the average time that paramedics spent transferring patients from an ambulance to the care of the A&E medics in Galway is 42 minutes, while in Mayo it is almost 45 minutes.

Irish Independent

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