UNDER-pressure hospital bosses have apologised after nine patients were forced to wait outside A&E in ambulances for at least an hour.

Throughout the winter NHS England provides a weekly update on how hospitals are coping with the high demand experienced during the colder weather.

The latest figures for Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (OUH), which cover December 30 to January 5, show 881 patients were brought by ambulance to A&E at the trust.

Over the seven days there were 82 arrivals at either the John Radcliffe Hospital or Banbury's Horton General Hospital that waited 30 minutes or longer to be transferred to the emergency department – despite NHS guidelines saying all patients should be transferred within 15 minutes.

Of these, nine patients waited an hour or longer to be moved into the hospital.

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Sam Foster, Chief Nursing Officer at OUH said the trust was 'very sorry' for delays in treatment and cited rising demand as the cause.

She explained: “The number of people arriving by ambulance has increased each week since October 2019. There are times during the evening and overnight that, due to the number of ambulances that arrive together, there is a delay in transferring our patients from the ambulance into our hospitals."

She added: "We are working together with the ambulance service to ensure that delays are minimised, and that all patients continue to be cared for while they’re waiting for a full handover to take place. We are working hard to reduce these delays in the future.”

Banbury Cake:

Conditions were equally congested inside the trust's hospitals with OUH more than 92 per cent full every day last week.

It comes after a trust report revealed in November workers at the John Radcliffe Hospital were constantly battling to cope with 'severely congested' wards 24 hours a day.

Staffing levels, meanwhile, were described as 'very stretched', with consistently 16 beds temporarily closed due to shortages.

General and acute wards at the trust were 96.5 per cent full on average last week – significantly above the 85 per cent rate the British Medical Association suggests should not be exceeded to ensure safe patient care.

The occupancy rate was also higher than the 88 per cent recorded the previous week.

Above 92 per cent, regulator NHS Improvement says that deterioration in A&E performance 'begins to accelerate'.

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Bed blocking was a major issue with, on average, the trust having 886 beds available to use each day for the week with just 31 beds free on an average day.

On Sunday, January 5, 418 patients had been in hospital for seven days or more at OUH.

They accounted for almost half, 48 per cent, of all beds occupied. Occupying 17 per cent of beds, meanwhile, were148 patients who had been in hospital for three weeks or longer.

Ms Foster said: “We are very sorry for patients and their families who have had to wait long times for treatment, and appreciate how distressing this can be. Like other trusts across the country, we are seeing an increase in the number of very sick patients coming to our emergency departments.

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"This means that they are then admitted to hospital for further care, which increases the number of beds being used and can mean that they stay in our hospitals for longer."

She urged people to only attend an emergency department for an emergency, with GPs, pharmacists, and minor injuries units also able to provide care for many conditions and injuries.

The chief nurse said calling the NHS 111 non-emergency number could also put people in touch with medical professionals and signpost people to the most appropriate support.

She continued: “We are working hard with our health and social care colleagues on our ‘home first’ approach to help people who can leave hospital do so quickly and safely, and offer care closer to home when appropriate.

"This allows us to treat people in hospital who really need to be there."