Local residents in Cheshire have told how they had to shelter a collapsed elderly man from the rain and then drive him to hospital after they learned an ambulance would not be able to respond for 15 hours.
Joanne McLoughlin, a 52-year-old carer from Runcorn, said she and several others used umbrellas to keep rain off her neighbour, in his 70s, for three hours after he broke his hip near his home on November 2.
She told the PA news agency: “We had to get some umbrellas, we got a couple of duvets from our house, my son came out… with a hot water bottle – and he’s literally on the wet concrete he’d slipped on.”
She added the man, who PA has chosen not to name, has previously had four heart attacks and is diabetic.
Six of the neighbours, including Ms McLoughlin, were later able to pick the man up and lie him flat in a car to drive him to a local hospital.
“The poor man, we didn’t know what to do because he was on the side that he’d hurt,” said Ms McLoughlin.
“He wanted to try and sit up but he was in so much pain.
“He started going that porcelain colour on his skin and I thought ‘Oh, God, we need to get him there as soon as possible’.”
Ms McLoughlin initially called 999 and was told emergency services would be there “as soon as we can”, but when she called back half-an-hour later she was told it would be “15 hours for an ambulance”.
The man has subsequently received a hip replacement at the hospital, according to the neighbour.
A North West Ambulance Service spokesperson said: “The ambulance service is extremely busy. While we recognise this means some patients are experiencing a delay in receiving an ambulance, our staff are working extremely hard to ensure that everyone who needs an ambulance gets one.
“The incident comes amid record ambulance delays, with average waiting times for callouts to potentially serious conditions are twice the national standard.
“Since April, we have received 15% higher call volumes to our 999 call centres compared to the same period in 2019. In addition, our highest priority (category 1) incidents were 26% higher this October than two years ago.
“We hope (the man who collapsed) continues to make a full recovery, and we would encourage him to contact our patient safety team if he would like us to look at this further.”
The spokesperson said the service is increasing the number of ambulances available “with the support of private providers”, and taking on additional staff in 999 call centres.
The latest data for October shows the average response time for ambulances dealing with the most urgent category 1 incidents – defined as life-threatening illnesses or injuries such as a cardiac arrest – was nine minutes and 20 seconds, compared with a target of seven minutes.
Ambulances in England also took an average of 53 minutes and 54 seconds last month to respond to category 2 calls, such as burns, epilepsy and strokes, up from 45 minutes and 30 seconds in September and missing the 18-minute target.
Response times for urgent calls – such as late stages of labour, non-severe burns and diabetes – averaged three hours, nine minutes and 58 seconds.