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Pioneering partnership between hospital and ambulance service

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AN initiative between Warrington and Halton Teaching Hospitals and the North West Ambulance Service has resulted in significant reductions in the amount of time it takes to transfer a patient from an ambulance to the care of Emergency Department staff.

Since implementing a dedicated ambulance reception process in which specially designated Emergency Department nurses and support staff manage the handover of patients from an arriving ambulance, Warrington Hospital is now delivering handover times of 15 minutes or less in over half of all ambulance arrivals.

In the first working week of January 2022, 95% of the 326 ambulance-delivered admissions to Warrington Hospital’s Emergency Department were processed in 30 minutes or under – significantly better than the England average of 77%.

The statistics show that Warrington Hospital has not only the best overall ambulance handover times in the region but also one of the region’s most improved performances – rising from 69% of patients processed under 30 minutes two years ago to 95% today.

The handover improvement solution Warrington and Halton Teaching Hospitals and NWAS put in place required a new post – an ambulance handover nurse – to be created to manage a specialist ambulance receiving station at the main ambulance entrance.

Supported by a care assistant, this critical role enables a safe, efficient handover to a senior member of the Emergency Department team, releasing the ambulance quickly and ensuring patients are comfortable and triaged to the right area as soon as possible.

Simon Constable, Chief Executive of Warrington and Halton Teaching Hospitals, said the new way of working had benefits for the hospital, the ambulance service and patients.

“Although a small change, we have seen a significant majority of our patients – more than every nine out of 10 ambulance admissions – handed over within 30 minutes of arrival at our Emergency Department. By speeding up the handover time, we are not only improving the patient experience but are enabling the ambulance crews to reduce their time at Warrington – giving them more time to other urgent calls, which is really important for patients waiting in the community.

“While the combination of winter and rise in the Omicron variant has the emergency department become much busier in recent months, the Trust is delighted to see it is the top performer in the North West for ambulance handover times in the recent NHS England statistics released this week (16 January 2022). This key element of care for acutely unwell patients  remains a top priority and we continue to work  closely with NWAS to maintain these high standards, even at times of peak attendances.”

Head of Service for Cheshire and Merseyside at North West Ambulance Service, Roger Jones, said, “Hospital handovers are proving challenging while the NHS as a whole is under pressure, however we are seeing a slight improvement than at the end of last year. The initiative we have developed with Warrington Hospital is an excellent example of small changes making a big difference. Building on our success with Warrington, we will work closely with other hospitals and the wider health systems to implement a package of measures to reduce ambulance waiting times at emergency departments.”


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