Transfer time from ambulance to A&E causing patient harm

9 Nov 2022 | Tahsin Choudhury

The Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch (HSIB) have identified that patients may come into risk of harm whilst waiting in ambulances for appropriate care at hospitals.

Emergency departments at hospitals are often running at full capacity, and it has been noted that some patients have had to be assessed in the back of ambulances because of this. Delays in transferring patients from an ambulance to an emergency department are causing a knock-on effect on ambulance response times.  A lack of timely and appropriate treatment can lead to the decline of some patient’s health, or sadly even death.

The investigation focused on the healthcare system as a whole system, and how each department can facilitate the flow of patients between each area. Managing this flow will make a significant impact on the care that a patient will receive, especially with making sure that a patient is cared for in the right area. For example, it was found that many diabetic patients were being treated in the wrong wards and this may be detrimental to treatment if the ward staff do not have knowledge of a patient’s diabetic care plan or have limited experienced in nursing /caring for diabetic patients.

The HSIB identified an “air gap”, which is when a patient is moved between departments and is not properly managed into the correct direction, causing a higher risk of harm. This lack of guidance was particularly apparent in the handover between healthcare to social care providers, such as local authority care homes. For example, if a care home is not equipped to receive a patient on the weekend, it is likely that the same patient will need readmission shortly after being discharged from the hospital. This is obviously detrimental to the patient and has an adverse effect on the flow of patients in hospitals. Care homes may not be able to take patients being discharged from hospital, and the hospital may have to keep the patient in a hospital bed for a longer period than anticipated, which can result in adverse medical issues such as pressure sores or developing infections in hospital.

Possible solutions

To combat this, it is suggested that a deeper relationship between health and social care workers, despite a formal one already being in its early stages, will make a real difference. It was found that the system is more likely to work better with stronger interpersonal bonds between the two. Implementing a “whole system” attitude across the board is likely to encourage this and enable communication. Ambulances are also trying to take only the patients that need to attend hospital in ambulances to try and increase their capacity and assist the emergency departments, whilst hospitals try to increase their bed capacity.

It would seem that the ambulance service is buckling under the pressure that is put on them and this prevents the ambulance crew from effectively carrying out their duties in a safe and efficient way. This must surely cause anxiety and stress on those working in the ambulance service as well as patients who are reliant on their care.

How Osbornes Law can help

Ambulance delays, both waiting in an ambulance to be transferred and delays in attending a scene can have a detrimental impact on the level of care you should expect. Our medical negligence lawyers have represented clients and their families where this has been the case. Our team specialise in all medical negligence claims and can advise you on whether you can bring an action against an NHS trust.

Our lawyers are ranked as leading lawyers in London and are approved by Action against Medical Accidents (AvMA). This means we have demonstrated our specialist legal expertise and experience in running clinical negligence claims for patients. To speak to us about your case please fill in the form below and we will call you back. 

Share this article


Contact Tahsin today

For a free initial conversation call 0207 485 8811

Email us Send us an email and we’ll get back to you

    • Stephanie has developed a particularly strong reputation for her handling of birth injury claims, as well as cases concerning surgical negligence and delays in surgery.

      Chambers UK

    • "An excellent firm which achieves fantastic outcomes for clients."

      Legal 500 2021

    • "Stephanie Prior takes on complex cases and gets excellent results. She has a background in medicine which serves her clients well and is a realistic but tough litigator."

      Legal 500 2021

    • "Stephanie Prior is hugely dedicated, adored by her clients, tenacious, efficient and extremely knowledgeable."

      Legal 500 2021

    • "Stephanie Prior is very good with troubled clients and is easily able to make them feel at ease."

      Legal 500 2021

    • "Stephanie shows sensitivity and deals with things in an understanding way."

      Chambers UK 2021

    • Osbornes provides a very intimate and personal client service which is increasingly rare in this sector.

      Legal 500 2020 - Clinical Negligence

    • The lawyers in the team are highly experienced and will drive cases very hard on behalf of their clients.

      Legal 500 2020 - Clinical Negligence

    • "Stephanie Prior has a realistic attitude to the complexities of the cases. She wins the trust of her clients and goes the extra mile to ensure they get the best outcomes."

      Legal 500 2020 - Stephanie Prior

    • "Stephanie Prior... manages a varied caseload, including obstetric claims, child and adult brain injury cases and fatal and non-fatal spinal cord injury cases."

      Chambers UK

    • "Stephanie is experienced, knowledgeable of all aspects of clinical negligence work, and strategic in running cases."

      Chambers UK

    • "The team were extremely professional in putting my needs first. There was a joined-up approach to catering for the client, and all lawyers involved were briefed and constructive."

      Chambers UK

    • Stephanie Prior is always very professional and kind. Highly recommended.

      Medical Negligence Client

    • Quite simply excellent, with a highly competent and well-rounded team. They understand complex medical litigation and have been our lifesavers, and we will always owe them our immense gratitude.

      Medical Negligence Client

    Related Insights VIEW ALL

    1. 9.8.2022

      New interactive rating tool reveals NHS wait times...

      Amidst record-breaking heatwaves and a lengthy patient waiting list due to COVID backlogs, it is not surprising that this summer...

      Read more
    2. 23.11.2021

      Longer wait for ambulances endangering lives

      According to recent NHS figures, in October this year patients in England who were presenting with potential heart attacks or...

      Read more
    3. Ambulance vehicles at the Royal London Hospital

      Ambulance Delays Affecting Rapid Patient Treatment

      In 2017, the Secretary of State for Health accepted the new ambulance performance standards recommended by NHS England, meaning that the 11...

      Read more