Hard to come up with an explanation for this perverse policy:
Ministers came under fresh criticism for their handling of the NHS last night after it emerged the ambulance service will be hit with £90 million in fines — as punishment for the chaos blighting casualty departments.
Critics said the fines will simply deprive trusts of vital funds that could help tackle the deterioration in patient services.
A new penalty clause that was written into ambulance trust contracts from last month will levy fines of £200 for every patient who has to wait for longer than 30 minutes for admission to A&E, and £1,000 for each patient forced to wait more than an hour.
You can understand the desire to speed the delivery of injured people to the emergency services they need, but how does it make any kind of sense to punish the ambulance service because the emergency wards they need to get their patients into are overcrowded? Unless the ambulance service has some kind of magic ability to shift priorities in the hospitals, fining them for patients’ wait times makes less than zero sense.
But acute overcrowding in A&E departments has led to increasing ambulance ‘jams’ formed as they queue to unload, with waits of four hours recorded at some hospitals at the busiest times.
Damning new figures reveal that during the past year there were more than 265,000 occasions in England when ambulance staff took more than half an hour to deliver patients into the hands of hospital doctors.
And shockingly, more than 37,000 patients had to wait over an hour to move on to the wards.
Official guidelines say ambulances should deliver patients, clean the ambulance and be back out on the road within 15 minutes. A longer wait is seen as ‘unsafe’.
Yet the chaos in A&E departments is so bad that at one, the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, doctors were forced to put up a tent to act as a makeshift ward to treat patients alongside the ambulance queue.