Optimism North East ambulance delays at A&E can 'improve'

A&E Sunderland Royal Hospital
Image caption NEAS said the winter had been the "most challenging" ever faced by the NHS

North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) director of operations has said he is "optimistic" it can turn round its failure to meet A&E handover times.

Possible solutions include diverting patients to "alternative care settings" and cutting non-emergency calls to 999.

Some patients have been kept in the back of vehicles for more than two hours before being admitted.

Paul Liversidge admitted the delays also affected 999 call response times.

Failure to hit ambulance targets has been discussed by the service and NHS directors.

"There's an absolute willingness to make sure those circumstances improve," Mr Liversidge said.

With the exception of Hexham General in Northumberland, all hospitals with an emergency department used by NEAS miss the 25-minute target.

In December 625 ambulances recorded a delay of between one and two hours and 87 were left standing for more than two hours.

North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust chief executive Alan Foster said: "Clearly it's something that we do not want to see.

"People are well cared for but we need to make sure, when they get to hospital, they're admitted and into A&E as quickly as possible."

NEAS said the winter had been one of the "most challenging" ever faced by the NHS, blaming the norovirus for increased clinical demand.

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