Queueing ambulances outside hospitals should not happen, but they do.
Ambulances queue because of ‘handover delays’. That’s essentially the length of time it takes to get a patient from the ambulance, into a hospital.
Not enough space in a hospital means a long wait until space is available.
A month ago, on January 15th, the Health Minister, Vaughan Gething looked to try and resolve the problem.
He said: “I am concerned about the deterioration in ambulance patient handover performance over recent months. As an immediate step, I have asked officials to develop proposals for a system of incentives to achieve desired improvements. I expect to take a decision within the next couple of weeks to enable the new system to be introduced in time to impact on performance this winter.”
He made this statement following one of the most challenging periods the NHS in Wales has ever faced.
Demand for services has been record breaking, waiting times in A&E for treatment have also broken records for all the wrong reasons.
Slow handovers mean ambulances queued outside emergency departments are unable to respond to 999 calls.
The Health Minister said: “I expect to take a decision within the next couple of weeks” but up until a week ago, sources familiar with the situation have told ITV Wales that they have received no information at all about what any ‘incentives’ structure there will be, when it would be implemented, and how.
Only in the last week, ITV Wales understands, have proposals started to be circulated.
For a health minister wanting to take a decision to impact performance this winter – and with meteorological Spring is just 18 days away – he’s running out of time…