‘Immediate action’ needed to reduce harm to patients from handover delays

Delays in handing over care from ambulance crews to emergency departments is causing life-threatening harm to patients, according to an interim report from the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch (HSIB).

The HSIB recommends a national response to tackle this issue, which was revealed in early findings from their ‘Harm caused by delays in transferring patients to the right place of care’ investigation.

The interim report includes ten initial findings of interest and two safety recommendations for the Department of Health and Social Care to action, including recommending the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) leads an immediate strategic national response to address patient safety issues across health and social care arising from flow through and out of hospitals, and conducting an integrated review of the health and social care system to identify risks to patient safety arising from challenges in constraints, demand, capacity and flow of patients.

yellow and white van on road during daytime

Neil Alexander, National Investigator, said: ‘As our investigation progresses, we continue to hear about the deep anxiety and distress that delays in handing over care can cause. It is one of the most urgent issues facing healthcare and sadly has resulted in deaths of patients who couldn’t access the treatment they needed in time.

‘Having heard from both frontline staff and healthcare leaders, it was important to publish what we had found so far from a patient safety perspective and to prompt immediate action.

‘Our initial findings point out that each area of the healthcare system is doing what they can to tackle growing pressure. Our safety recommendations recognise that this work needs to be brought together under a national, strategically led response that reduces delays and improves patient flow across the health and care system to mitigate the current harm and future risks to patient safety.’

The Independent Care Group (ICG) said it had warned for decades that failing to reform and invest in social care would have consequences for other care.

ICG Chair Mike Padgham commented: ‘This isn’t rocket science. If we have no care available we will have delayed discharges from hospitals and if we can’t free up beds then we will get ambulances queuing at the doors and patients suffering.

‘The equation is simple – invest in proper reform and funding of social care. Increase the availability of homecare and of care and nursing home beds and you will free up hospital beds to look after those who urgently need them.

‘Instead, the Government continues to insist that there is adequate care capacity in the system – well here is the evidence that that is just, plain wrong.’

Photo by Ian Taylor


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