More NHS hospitals leaving patients in corridors to free up ambulances

Since 2022, hospitals like NNUH have increasingly adopted a new way of working called the Continuous Flow Model, in which patients are sent from A&E to wards and other areas even if they are full.

They have done this to address soaring ambulance waits outside A&E as paramedics try to offload patients.

In the UK, the model started at the North Bristol NHS Trust and was then implemented at the 10 hospitals with the most delays, according to NHS board papers.

These documents indicate at least 36 hospitals have now adopted the system or a version of it. Some implementations involve “drip-feeding” patients from A&E.

But it often means hospitals will have to put patients on beds in corridors, albeit in a planned and risk-assessed manner.

Trusts have adopted it reluctantly, they say, but it now allows ambulances to get to the sickest patients quicker.

Lesley Dwyer, NNUH chief executive, said demand for beds was forcing tough choices. “We are committed to reducing ambulance delays outside our hospital, which we know is saving lives by improving 999 response times by freeing up ambulances quicker to get to patients in our community.”

Back in February, the interim chief executive of NNUH, Nick Hulme, said they had cut ambulance handover delays – but that it had come at a cost.

He said the risk had been moved from outside hospital into corridors but that it was “better for the community”.

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