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RCEM issues updated ambulance handover delays guidance

31 March 2022

Following stories about the use of tents outside EDs to enable ambulance offloads, the Royal College of Emergency Medicine and the College of Paramedics have issued updated guidance, laying out the best alternative options available to hospitals.

Commenting on the update to the document originally published in 2020, RCEM Vice President, Dr Ian Higginson said: “For the avoidance of doubt RCEM does not support the use of tents or other temporary structures in which to hold patients who arrive by ambulance, unless it is part of a major incident response. We are republishing our options appraisal for ambulance handover delays to make this clear. This document is published jointly with the College of Paramedics.

“Holding patients in ambulances or tents outside EDs, or in corridors and other non-clinical spaces inside, is an awful experience for patients and staff and is associated with harm and death. Ambulance services and EDs are being asked to come up with increasingly unacceptable ways to manage the problem of delayed handovers and ED crowding, whilst there is manifest failure to properly deal with the root causes of the problem within hospitals and the wider system, including social care. Whilst we are trying to patch holes in the bodywork, the wheels have come off.”

The full guidance can be read here.

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