ONE in five patients arriving at Warrington Hospital by ambulance are not transferred within times set out by government guidelines according to new figures.

A Freedom of Information request submitted to the North West Ambulance Service by the World’s sister paper the Warrington Guardian has revealed that of the 22,764 ambulance handover times measured at the hospital’s A&E department in 2016, 4,664 were longer than 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, four per cent of transfer waits were greater than an hour and three per cent were longer than 75 minutes.

The most common health complaints for patients waiting longer than an hour included chest pains, breathing difficulties and injuries sustained in falls.

On two days in 2016, February 8 and 10, a total of 42 ambulance transfers took longer than government guidelines.

A spokesman for Warrington and Halton Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said that it is one of the highest performing trusts in the region, but that the emergency care improvement programme had conducted a system review and set out a partnership between it and NWAS.

The spokesman added that handover times did not reflect an overall picture of pressures in the system, and that delays could be caused by a high number of people in emergency departments or a lack of beds due to patients who are fit to be discharged waiting for transfers to other care settings.

Warrington Hospital’s spokesman said: “NWAS in partnership with the Emergency Care Improvement Programme has set up an improvement programme to apply focus and identify and examine improvement opportunities, propose and implement improvement measure and discuss ways of improving quality service, systems, processes and procedures in relation to handover delays.

“The 90-day programme will involve NWAS an 11 acute sites across the region of which Warrington Hospital is one.

“This close working between our local health and social care service will ensure that everyone in our community gets the care and treatment they need.”

NWAS said that it had experienced a high demand for its services during 2016, a trend that has continued into the New Year.

A spokesman for the trust said: “Over the last year we have experienced and are continuing to see a high demand for our service – this is specifically for patients with potentially life-threatening conditions and is happening right across the NHS.

“This increase in patients puts pressure on hospital emergency departments and can result in ambulance crews having to wait longer to handover patients into the care of hospital staff before they are able to get back out on the road to respond to other emergencies.

“We monitor ambulance handover times daily and are working closely with our NHS colleagues and CCGs to address the issue and have introduced the placement of ambulance liaison officers in emergency departments to help speed up turnaround times.

“Ambulance crews are also referring patients through initiatives such as the GP referral scheme, falls response team, community diabetes team and community assessment for mental health patients so they can get the care they need closer to home and without a hospital admission.

“We would urge people to carefully consider whether their condition warrants an emergency response or if they could seek alternative transport or other pathways of care such as a walk-in centre.”