Staff waited more than 600 hours to hand over patients during past financial year

Ambulance fine: North Devon District Hospital has been fined more than £30,000 by South Western Ambulance Service for keeping paramedics waiting to hand over patients, it has been revealed.

At the Barnstaple hospital they had waited for 607 hours during the period from April 2010 to March 2011. Other South West hospitals had been charged more, with the Royal Cornwall paying almost £71,000.

Ken Wenman, chief executive of the South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust, said the hospital recognised the issues faced by the service and continued to make improvements, which they were working in partnership to achieve:

“The charges made to hospitals when crews experience significant delays are nominal,” he added.

“Any funds generated through this route go back into putting ambulances on the road. There is certainly no profit.”

Northern Devon Healthcare Trust has said it had made “significant progress” since April, with two extra consultants employed to help deal with the problem.