Bishop's Stortford MP intervenes after 'unacceptable' ambulance delay for 82-year-old woman who fell in street
An 82-year-old woman with a suspected broken hip had to lie on the pavement in Bishop's Stortford town centre under the blazing sun for almost three hours waiting for an ambulance.
The incident is a stark illustration of the pressures on the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust (EEAST) as it responds to around 4,000 emergency incidents a day.
Bosses told the Indie they were offering staff overtime to increase the number of crews on the road.
Bishop's Stortford MP Julie Marson has written to EEAST chief executive Tom Abell after learning of her constituent's "wholly unacceptable" ordeal.
The woman, who lives in sheltered housing off Stansted Road, was crossing Bridge Street when she fell awkwardly on Wednesday September 8.
The Indie's editorial assistant David James was one of those who rushed to help her from our North Street office and was horrified at the initial suggestion it could be up to 15 hours before an ambulance arrived. He flagged down a passing police car to ask officers to intervene.
The Isabel Hospice charity shop in Bridge Street provided an umbrella to shade the casualty from the midday sun and soft furnishings to make her more comfortable. Nostimo café and deli owner Dimitrios Tsioupas offered water from his Market Square business.
David and up to seven police officers stayed with the woman as she waited for help.
An hour after the first 999 call, a rapid response vehicle arrived at 12.45pm, staffed by an emergency medical technician who was able to begin treatment and administer pain relief.
He was in contact with the EEAST control room to ensure transport arrived as soon as possible – but it was a further hour and 40 minutes before an "urgent tier" ambulance appeared at 2.25pm and three hours in all before the distressed patient was finally taken to hospital at 2.46pm.
The ambulance crew had to use a blanket from the hospice shop as a makeshift stretcher because the vehicle did not have a bodyboard.
The Indie understands that her case was assigned as category 2 by ambulance control.
The trust's target is to attend category 1 cases – immediately life-threatening injuries and illnesses – in an average time of seven minutes and within 15 minutes at least nine out of 10 times.
The target for category 2 emergencies is an average of 18 minutes and within 40 minutes at least nine out of 10 times.
Category 3 relates to urgent calls where patients may be treated in situ, for example at home or referred to a different pathway of care within two hours.
Category 4 patients may be given advice over the phone or referred to another service such as a GP or pharmacist. These less urgent calls should be responded to within three hours.
According to the trust, response times are not impacted by the presence or intervention of a police officer.
Warm weather, large-scale sporting events and summer holidays all increase demand for the ambulance service.
A spokesman for EEAST said: "At the time we received this call we were experiencing very high demand for 999 services for patients with immediately life-threatening injuries and illnesses, which unfortunately meant that some patients had longer waits. We would like to apologise for any additional stress this caused.
"A rapid response vehicle staffed by an experienced clinician responded to this call, and the patient was given pain relief and helped to be made comfortable whilst waiting for transport to arrive.
"We would welcome those involved to contact us directly so that we can look into and provide support on any concerns they may have."
David, a first aider for over a decade, said: "Sadly, it’s not the first time I’ve been nearby and able to help an older person in the streets of Stortford after a fall.
"I have little doubt that the interventions by the police officers both aided the lady in her comfort and the speed at which medical help arrived. It’s not that they can jump the queue, but they can relay the seriousness of the situation more effectively than a member of the public.
"I want to thank the local PCs and PCSOs for being able to help and offer their own first aid support. I think they're generally undervalued by the public and do a lot of good that you don’t always see.
"I understand that the lady is recovering in hospital and that her hip was indeed broken. I wish her a speedy and safe recovery and hope to meet up with her."
Mrs Marson said: "First of all, I hope the resident is OK. I'm making efforts to contact her directly on this too. This must have been a deeply distressing experience and I want to thank everyone who helped while the police and emergency services came to her aid.
"No one should ever face this situation. The wait time was wholly unacceptable and I've written to the chief executive of the trust to find out more about why this happened.
"The NHS should always be available to those who need it. It's something I sought assurances from the Prime Minister on at PMQs [Prime Minister's Questions] today [Wednesday].
"Our health and emergency services should always be able to cope with the demand it faces and it is the responsibility of the Government and health service alike to ensure this."