Outrage as elderly woman forced to wait three hours for ambulance with broken hip

North East MPs have warned that the region's ambulance service cannot cope with the demands placed on it

Ambulance staff were not checked for criminal convictions
Ambulances

An elderly woman who broke her hip was forced to wait three hours for an ambulance - after being told she was 42nd in the queue.

The case was highlighted by MPs as they claimed that patients are suffering because North East Ambulance Service doesn’t have enough resources to meet demand.

But the service warned that delays were partly caused by patients calling an ambulance when they didn’t need one, or turning up at hospital unnecessarily.

And they said “people using the NHS properly” was the only solution to the problem in the long-run.

The scale of the issue was highlighted by Pat Glass, Labour MP for North West Durham, who revealed the son of one of her constituents had been told his mother was at the back of a lengthy queue.

Speaking in the House of Commons, she said: “Cases have been raised with me every week. The latest one involved an elderly lady who fell outside and broke her hip. When her son rang to find out where the ambulance was, he was told that she was 42nd in the queue.

“She was lying outside with a broken hip for three hours, and that happened in Consett, where there is an ambulance service in the town.

“The whole situation is spiralling out of control.”

Pat Glass, MP for North West Durham
Pat Glass, MP for North West Durham
 

Easington MP Grahame Morris also warned that services were getting worse, saying: “Something is sadly wrong with the North East Ambulance Service and the situation is deteriorating. We have all had cases that are really quite shocking, and something needs to be done.”

And Hartlepool Labour MP Iain Wright told MPs that ambulance managers had admitted they did not have sufficient resources to meet demand.

He highlighted the case of his constituent William Gouldburn, a retired teacher, whose died aged 73 after he collapsed at home and an ambulance took 90 minutes to arrive.

Mr Wright said: “At the inquest into Mr Gouldburn’s death last month, a manager for the North East Ambulance Service said that the service had been experiencing a high level of calls and that ambulances were delayed in admitting patients to North Durham hospital due to a lack of available beds.”

But Health Minister Jane Ellison insisted that it was inevitable that some patients would have to wait.

She said: “Every patient should expect to receive first-class care from the ambulance service, but the nature of emergency response work means there will always be incidents where unfortunate timing leads to a situation in which someone who is assessed as being in a non-life-threatening situation calls 999 at the same time as several other people who are in life-threatening situations.”

A spokesperson for North East Ambulance Service said official figures showed it was one of the best in the country.

The spokesperson said: “Funding is only one of a number of factors which contribute to ambulance delays. We are an emergency service, yet many instances we get called to are not emergencies.

“When we arrive at a hospital, sometimes we cannot check a patient in. This means our crews have to queue, which means less vehicles on the road available to respond.

“Forty per cent of people who turn up at A&E of their own accord because they can’t get a GP appointment do not actually need any treatment whatsoever. So while A&E staff sift through these cases, the queue of ambulances outside builds.

“A bottomless pit of cash for NEAS might temporarily ease the situation, but it would not solve the problem. It’s more about people using the NHS properly.”

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