Philip Dunne welcomed new Health & Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay and drew his attention to last Friday's Ambulance Summit focussed on the impact of delayed handover wait times at Shrewsbury and Telford hospitals, patient flow and patient discharge causes to ambulance response times. He calls for more resources for social care, particularly for domiciliary care workers in rural areas, to boost the ability to discharge patients.
May I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his new role and say how important, given this particular crisis, his previous experience as Minister of State for Health is? He took over that role from me, and he had ministerial responsibility for ambulances.
On Friday, I attended an ambulance summit with other Shropshire and Telford MPs, West Midlands ambulance service and NHS leaders in Shropshire, where we were told that one of the critical issues in ambulance response is the handover wait times at hospitals. Royal Shrewsbury Hospital was averaging two and a half hours for handover in the first two weeks of July, and the Princess Royal Hospital in Telford was at three hours.
The problem is not so much conveyance by ambulance because it is hard to reach patients, but ambulatory walk-ins at our hospitals increasing the volumes of patients being seen in A&E. The problem with that increase in patient volume is patient flow and discharge at the far end. May I suggest that the quick win would be to increase resources for social care, particularly for domiciliary care workers who at present, particularly in rural areas, have to pay for their own transport to get from one patient to another? If we could improve those conditions, it would boost the ability to discharge patients.
My right hon. Friend, partly through the direct experience he brings to these issues, highlights the integrated nature of the challenge we face and in particular the importance of getting the right domiciliary care and care home support in place. Part of that challenge in the coming weeks, ahead of any autumn and winter pressure, will be to understand what the capacity is and what the constraints on it are, so that through the integrated care boards we can better focus on unlocking that capacity to relieve the pressure on ambulance handovers, as he sets out.