Health Secretary says James Cook ambulance delays were "unacceptable" (From Darlington and Stockton Times)
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Health Secretary says James Cook ambulance delays were "unacceptable"
LONG delays that left paramedics waiting two-and-a-half hours to admit patients to a North-East hospital were "completely unacceptable", the Health Secretary has said.
Speaking in the Commons, Jeremy Hunt turned his fire on The James Cook University Hospital, in Middlesbrough, after fierce criticism of the hold-ups, on September 27.
Ambulance crews - who usually have to wait with a patient, until a bed becomes available - raised the alarm because they were unable to get back on the road for up to two-and-a-half hours.
Extra doctors and nurses were drafted in to ease the pressure on the accident and emergency department and seven planned operations had to be cancelled over two days.
The issue was raised by Tom Blenkinsop, Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, who warned of an "unacceptable mismatch in demand and supply".
In reply, Mr Hunt said that all the most serious 'red one' calls, on September 27, were "met within the target time of eight minutes".
But he added: "I am extremely concerned about what happened on 27 September. The delays were completely unacceptable.
"I know that the trust is taking measures to ensure that the problems are not repeated, particularly looking forward to the winter time when there is likely to be extra pressure on ambulance services.
"I will follow the matter very closely and I expect the trust to come up with measures to ensure that his constituents are properly safeguarded."
Speaking afterwards, Mr Blenkinsop said: "Rightly, many of my constituents were disturbed when this news originally came to light in September.
"Medical professionals have described such delays as being due to an unacceptable mismatch in "demand and supply", so I felt it was important to urge the minister to take action to ensure that this problem does not become endemic."
In a statement, South Tees Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs The James Cook Hospital, said pressure built up because A&E was very busy from the previous evening - at a time when patients were staying in hospital for longer than average.
It added: "We recognise there were some delays with ambulance handovers and we are reviewing the activity to try and find out why it was so busy.
"We're also hoping to put in place a number of schemes to help ease winter pressures, including opening a winter ward to increase capacity, and are working closely with GPs and the local primary care trust and clinical commissioning groups."
Mr Hunt also revealed that, across England, the number of ambulance handovers delayed by longer than half an hour had risen from 63,892 in the winter of 2010-11 to 77,543 last winter.