An 89-year-old man who broke his hip was transported to hospital on a plank of wood in the back of a van because there were no available ambulances.
Melvyn Ryan had a fall at his home in Cwmbran in Wales last Friday and suffered a broken hip and shoulder and a cut to his head.
His granddaughter, Nicole Lea, was alerted to his fall by a call from the emergency lifeline button around his neck.
The 27-year-old firefighter from Pontypool has been his principal carer since his wife Maureen died from COVID-19 in 2020.
When she arrived at the scene, Lea called 999 but was told no ambulances were available and no one from the emergency services was coming to help.
The call handler advised her to call an out-of-ours GP and book a taxi to transfer Ryan to hospital, before hanging up in order to "answer other calls".
Lea improvised by strapping her grandfather to a plank of wood and driving him to hospital herself in the back of a van.
"I couldn't really believe what I was being told," said Lea.
"I was expecting a long wait for paramedics but never thought I'd literally be told, 'we have nothing to send, you'll have to find alternative transport'. I was left with grandad on the floor in agony and me wondering how I was going to save his life."
With the help of her partner and his mother, the three of them managed to strap Ryan to a plank of wood and move him into the back of a van normally used to transport their dogs.
"To make matters worse, when we did get him to hospital the staff there told me that had we followed the advice we'd been given over the phone, he could've died," said Lea.
"They told us that had we sat him up in a taxi the break in his hip would've likely ruptured an artery and been catastrophic for him.
"I knew the NHS was in trouble and wait times were long. I also knew that it's understaffed and its workers are underpaid.
"But what I didn't know when I called 999 was that they'd just turn around and say they weren't sending help. Neither did I know they'd hang up on me, expecting me to figure out how to get him to safety.
"It's only because of teamwork, brainstorming and quick thinking that the three of us managed to get grandad - a World War Two army veteran who once fought for his country - to the Grange University Hospital within a couple of hours."
Lee Brooks, executive director of operations at the Welsh Ambulance Service, said: "We are sorry to hear about Mr Ryan’s experience, it is certainly below the level of service that we aim to offer.
"We appreciate why this would be upsetting for both Mr Ryan and his family, as it is for us and our people as well.
"Current levels of demand, handover delays at hospitals and staff sickness levels have limited our capacity to respond in a safe and timely manner."
He invited the family to get in touch so the incident can be investigated.