PARAMEDICS have been praised by health chiefs after their turnaround times at York Hospital were virtually sliced in half.

The average time it takes for an ambulance to deliver patients to the Wigginton Road site before leaving to answer further emergency calls has been cut to 22 minutes – four minutes quicker than the national average.

The welcome news was revealed at a meeting of the members of York Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, showing the turnaround time is now 18 minutes faster than last year. The figure had risen to the 40-minute mark during 2008 when the hospital’s operation was stretched to saturation point due to a severe outbreak of the crippling winter disease norovirus and a bed shortage crisis.

Mike Proctor, deputy chief executive for York Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said the hospital had battled to meet the unprecedented demand for treatment and said it was testament to the hard-working nature of the staff that the hospital had managed to turnaround the figures. “Since December 2008 the hospital has been working very hard with our colleagues in the Yorkshire Ambulance Service,” he said.

“Our emphasis has been to speed up the process in the Emergency Department for ambulance crews to hand over patients to hospital staff.”

He said, after an investigation, the turnaround times were far too long to meet with standards. “During very busy periods we had found that the time ambulance crews were spending at the hospital had become unacceptably long.

“Reducing this handover time would free up their availability to care for other patients in the community.

“I was pleased to report to our members’ council that this work has been very successful and due to the fantastic efforts of the ambulance crews and our own staff, ambulance turnaround times are now much reduced from the peak experienced in December.”

The Press reported exclusively in June last year how patients were kept waiting in ambulances for more than two hours outside the doors of York Hospital after the site’s resources were tested to breaking-point.

During April and May, York Hospital saw an 11 per cent rise in the number of people admitted to A&E compared with last year, and Mr Proctor said at the time that the demand had reached “saturation point”.