West Herts hospital boss promises action after patient backlog meant ambulances had to be diverted elsewhere

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A backlog of patients waiting to be discharged from hospital combined with an influx of sick people meant ambulances had to be diverted away from Watford’s A&E department.

Now hospital boss Samantha Jones is working with health service partners in a bid to make sure patients are discharged as quickly as possible.

The chief executive of West Herts Hospitals NHS Trust said beds became blocked because patients who were medically ready to leave couldn’t do so because they needed additional support, such as a care home place.

Combined with a surge in people needing help, this meant the emergency department was overwhelmed earlier this month.

Ambulances had to be diverted to other hospitals, including the Lister at Stevenage, over a two-hour morning period.

Mrs Jones said: “The decision to divert ambulances was not taken lightly. However, our priority, as always, was to ensure our patients receive the best possible safe care and the divert helped to ensure we could do this.”

A&E was still open to people coming to the hospital on foot or by car.

Only a handful of ambulances were diverted and Mrs Jones said: “I apologise to those patients that had to go to a hospital which was further away.

“While I am pleased to report that diverts are not common at Watford, they are used by many hospitals across the country to ensure they can continue to treat patients safely during busier periods.”

On the Tuesday in question there were 45 patients ready to leave the hospital who could not be discharged.

Mrs Jones said: “We are working closely with our community, social care and other NHS partners to ensure our patients can promptly access the services they need.

“This in turn will help free up our beds, including for people who need admission from our A&E.”

The trust is also in the process of extending the care it provides through an ambulatory care unit, which sees patients who would normally be treated as inpatients on a day case basis. This will provide an extra 12 spaces.

There are also plans to spend an additional £3.9m each year on employing 160 new nurses and 35 midwives.

Mrs Jones said: “Despite being very busy, I am pleased to report that our emergency services (A&E, minor injuries unit and urgent care centre) continue to perform well. For the year to date, 96 per cent of people