Injured 90-year-old endures 40-hour wait for ambulance - only to be left outside A&E overnight

·3-min read
Ambulance outside A&E
Ambulance outside A&E

A 90-year-old woman endured a 40-hour wait for an ambulance, only to be stuck in the vehicle overnight outside accident and emergency.

Steven Syms, from St Austell, in Cornwall, said his mother Daphne fell over at her home on Sunday evening, but paramedics did not arrive until Tuesday afternoon.

She then had to remain in the vehicle overnight at Royal Cornwall Hospital as there was a queue at A&E. She was eventually diagnosed with a suspected fractured hip and needed an operation.

Mr Syms said the system is "totally broken" and his mother would have certainly died if her condition had been more serious.

He spoke out as further evidence emerged of extremely long waits for paramedics in Cornwall.

One woman, from the village of St Columb Road, shared pictures on social media of a makeshift shelter she built around her 87-year-old father after he suffered a fall outside on Monday.

A daughter made a makeshift shelter for her father after he fell outside his home and faced a long wait for an ambulance
A daughter made a makeshift shelter for her father after he fell outside his home and faced a long wait for an ambulance

He had broken seven ribs and suffered two fractures to his pelvis, and had to wait 15 hours for paramedics to arrive.

Images posted on Twitter showed she had positioned a football goalpost around her injured parent, then laid tarpaulin and three umbrellas over it to shield him from the elements.

System 'needs to be urgently reviewed'

Speaking on Wednesday about his 90-year-old mother's traumatic experience, Mr Syms told BBC Radio Cornwall: "We phoned NHS 111 on Sunday evening. Mum was in quite a bit of pain - she'd fallen on the floor. NHS 111 gave us all the advice that they could do and we managed to get mum back into a chair.

"We then dialled 999 and waited for the ambulance. When I say 'waited for the ambulance', unfortunately it took in total 40 hours before the ambulance arrived yesterday afternoon.

"We're literally heartbroken to see a 90-year-old woman in such distress, just sat there waiting. It's the not knowing how ill she was or whether she had broken anything.

"In fact, she's still down at the hospital in the ambulance at the moment. She's not actually out of the ambulance yet.

"The system is totally broken. It took nine minutes before my 999 call was answered. If that was a cardiac arrest, nine minutes is much too long - it's the end of somebody's life.

"Paramedics are absolutely incredible people. They need and want to carry on and do the job they're trained for. At the moment, they are being abused and used as part of the nursing section at Royal Cornwall Hospital.

"The system is not deteriorating, it's totally broken and needs to be urgently reviewed."

Health system 'under enormous pressure'

A spokesman for the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly’s integrated care system said: “Like other parts of the country, our health and care system continues to experience pressure. The reasons for this are complex, including high demand for primary and secondary care, mental health services and adult social care.

“Our teams continue to work together to support people who need our care and we encourage people to use the most appropriate service – including your local pharmacy, minor injury units or 111 online - to keep our emergency departments and 999 service available for people with urgent and life-threatening needs.”

A spokesman for the South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust said: “We are sorry and upset that we were unable to provide Mr Syms’ mother with the timely response and care that she needed. Our ambulance clinicians strive every day to give their best to patients.

“Health and social care services are under enormous pressure. We are working with our partners in the NHS and social care in Cornwall to do all we can to improve the service that patients receive.

“We thank Mr Syms for being so understanding of the circumstances that our people and other health staff are working under.”