Heart attack patient in England told to make own way to hospital

·2-min read
<span>Photograph: Christopher Thomond/The Guardian</span>
Photograph: Christopher Thomond/The Guardian

An ambulance service has apologised after a man having a heart attack was advised to get himself to hospital or face a long wait.

Graham Reagan said his son had to drive him to hospital after being told the nearest ambulance was 30 to 40 miles away.

Reagan, from Malton in North Yorkshire, said he called 999 when his chest pains became unbearable and that he was collapsing when he arrived at York hospital in the early hours of 18 December.

“What does an NHS crisis look like? If it’s 2 o’clock in the morning, you’re having a heart attack, and you can’t get an ambulance, is that a crisis? It’s not working. It certainly didn’t work for me,” he said.

The army was last week drafted in to drive ambulances in parts of England, including Yorkshire and in the home counties, as the service comes under huge pressure amid staff absences of up to 20% due to Covid.

Related: ‘Red levels of staffing are the norm’: NHS workers on coping with Covid

Reagan said he was with his wife and son when they were advised to drive him to hospital as he suffered a suspected heart attack.

“My wife doesn’t drive, but fortunately my son was with us and he drove me to York hospital. I’m in the back of the car – the pain is getting worse and I’m now getting quite upset,” he said.

He said staff at the hospital were “absolutely brilliant” and arranged for him to be transferred to Hull for treatment after a heart attack was confirmed. However, he said he faced a further 35-minute wait for an ambulance to take him.

Reagan said he wanted to share his experience to raise awareness: “I assume there will be deaths [due to ambulance delays]. Is that OK?

“Today might be the day when there aren’t enough ambulances and you might be the person who is waiting for one. Today might not be your lucky day and you might not get the excellent care that you will get if you’re in hospital.”

A spokesman for Yorkshire ambulance service NHS trust said they were sorry to hear of Reagan’s concerns. They said, in common with other ambulance services, they had been under “significant operational pressures for some time” and, while staff did their best to respond quickly, they acknowledged “some patients are having to wait longer for an ambulance response”.

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