Many of the problems facing the NHS are well documented: understaffing, lack of resources, lack of funding and poor data organisation are all issues hardworking healthcare professionals must strive to overcome each and every day. Despite the best efforts of these individuals, however, such issues can unfortunately affect the lives of patients and their families. New data obtained by the BBC has revealed just one of the ways in which recurring problems are having an impact on the lives of NHS patients, but can healthcare data capture help?
Ambulance handover delays
New data obtained by the BBC via the Freedom of Information Act has revealed that many A&E patients face long delays waiting in ambulances during hospital handovers – often far in excess of the recommended 15-minute maximum. The handover process means that paramedics must retain patients in their care until hospital workers are available to take over, and naturally this often means waiting until staff become available. According to NHS guidelines, this process ought to be completed within 15 minutes, but the BBC has found that times often far exceed this figure. Handover times in excess of an hour are not uncommon, while the BBC report revealed that some patients experienced waiting periods in excess of five and even six hours.
As one would expect there are regional variations where handover times are concerned. Welsh hospitals were the worst performers, with each of the ambulance services questioned reporting that their longest weekly handover time exceeded a three-hour duration. Scottish hospitals returned the greatest results in the BBC report, with no ambulance service reporting a weekly maximum wait of more than two hours. The issue remains pertinent UK-wide, however, as few A&E departments were able to provide figures in line with the 15-minute NHS recommendation. To put the figures into perspective, hospitals can be fined for handover periods lasting more than 30 minutes at a time.
Data capture versus delays
Effective healthcare is all about improving levels of care, comfort and stability for patients. Naturally, figures such as the above are unacceptable. Patients brought to A&E departments are often frightened, in pain and naturally eager to receive treatment as quickly as possible. Waiting for hours in the back of an ambulance simply compounds their misery and maximises the wait before doctors can alleviate their suffering. Furthermore, ambulances that are stranded in queues at A&E departments can’t be out on the road reaching other stricken parents. As NHS England’s Barbara Hakin has pointed out, “It is essential ambulances are back on the road as soon as possible after taking patients to A&E.” So what can we do to improve these figures in future, enhance the wellbeing of patients and put ambulances back on the road as quickly as possible?
Once a problem is identified, it’s important that healthcare institutions have the data they need to properly understand and analyse it. The BBC’s figures imply that these excessively long handover periods are caused by a poor distribution of human resources. As we mentioned earlier, the NHS faces a staff shortage and must now achieve more with fewer resources, but patients cannot be made to suffer as a result. By using our healthcare data capture solutions, it’s possible to audit an entire healthcare institution and analyse the use of human resources across a number of different departments. Why are paramedics being forced to wait for hours with their patients? Where are A&E staff devoting their time, and can individuals be redistributed more effectively in future? By answering these questions and others like them, it’s possible to make better use of human resources, making your hospital a more efficient place in the process.
Improving figures such as those reported by the BBC isn’t merely a case of hitting targets and answering critics. Healthcare institutions have a duty to provide the best possible levels of care to their patients, and with the help of the right kind of data, they can. Why not contact us today and find out more about how our healthcare data capture solutions can help?