ACCIDENT and emergency units in the region have been forced to turn away ambulances as pressure on urgent care continues to intensify.
Over the winter months, hospitals implemented almost 500 ambulance diverts, double the number of the previous three years.
And Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust is one of five hospital trusts which account for over half of the 478 ambulance diverts.
The last three winters up to 2015/16 saw an average of 249 ambulance diverts.
The figures come as new research was published this week by the Nuffield Trust.
The report noted that the extra time paramedics spent on the road affected the service’s ability to meet its targets.
Director of research at the Nuffield Trust, Prof. John Appleby, said: “Our research has uncovered the huge increase in the number of times this winter that ambulance trusts have been told that they must take patients to another hospital altogether because an A&E unit simply doesn’t have the capacity to accept any more patients.
“Managers in the NHS and politicians need to make improving the ambulance service’s poor morale and its ability to meet targets an urgent priority.”
North-East NHS leaders have said that last winter saw unprecedented demand on its emergency services.
They described the practice of diverting ambulances to a different hospital as a last resort.
The report from the Nuffield Trust stated that in the last five years, the number of Category A calls (the most serious) resulting in an ambulance arriving at a scene had increased by 7.4 per cent, year on year.
This had coincided with an annual increase of 2.1 per cent in emergency admissions to hospital and 1.6 per cent yearly increases in A&E attendances.
The report found that ambulance trusts had met main urgent response time targets in just six of the last 49 months.
None had been met since May 2015.
Richard Webber, a spokesman for the College of Paramedics said: “In non-urban areas in particular the extra time taken to reach more distant A&E departments is significant.
“Not only do crews have to drive further away once a divert is implemented – once that’s happened, an ambulance crew will then also need to travel further to get back to their own area to respond to the next emergency call.”
A spokesman for Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust said: “During extremely busy times, as a last resort, we sometimes had to divert the ambulance to another local hospital.
“This was always done to ensure the highest standards of safety and care and is routine business at times of peak demand.”