Woman, 90, waits 40 hours for ambulance after serious fall - 'The system is totally broken'

·Freelance news writer, Yahoo UK
·3-min read

Watch: 90-year-old woman forced to wait 40 hours for ambulance after fall

A 90-year-old woman was forced to wait 40 hours for an ambulance after a serious fall at her home.

The unnamed woman then had to endure a further 20 hours stuck in the ambulance outside a hospital in a “handover delay”.

It comes amid massive pressure on ambulance services across the country and her son, Stephen Syms, told the BBC the “system is totally broken”.

The wait for an ambulance was so long that it spanned three separate days. The fall happened at her home in Cornwall on Sunday evening before the ambulance arrived on Tuesday afternoon.

South Western Ambulance Service confirmed the overall 60-hour wait for treatment to Yahoo News UK, saying it is “sorry and upset” about the delay and that its services are “under enormous pressure”.

South Western Ambulance Service said it is “sorry and upset” about the delay and that its services are “under enormous pressure”. (Getty Images)
South Western Ambulance Service said it is 'sorry and upset' about the delay and that its services are 'under enormous pressure'. (Getty Images)

Syms told BBC Radio Cornwall he was “literally heartbroken to see a 90-year-old woman in such distress, waiting and not knowing if she had broken anything”.

While praising the paramedics, he said of the wider situation: “The system is not deteriorating, it's totally broken and needs to be urgently reviewed."

South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust said: “We are sorry and upset that we were unable to provide Ms Syms 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."

It comes after an 87-year-old, David Wakeley, also from Cornwall, waited 15 hours for an ambulance after falling at his home.

The family of the 87-year-old who fell at home were forced to build a shelter for him out of a football goal - as he waited 15 hours in the rain through the night for an ambulance. (SWNS)
The family of the 87-year-old who fell at home were forced to build a shelter for him out of a football goal - as he waited 15 hours in the rain through the night for an ambulance. (SWNS)

The fall happened outdoors on Monday night, with his family forced to build a makeshift shelter around him overnight.

The latest NHS England ambulance quality indicators, released last week, highlight the extent to which the country’s ambulance services are missing targets amid the intense pressure.

In July, the average response times for…

  • category 1 "life-threatening" calls was nine minutes and 35 seconds - the joint worst on record, though this coincided with a record 85,000 category 1 callouts. The target time is seven minutes

  • category 2 “emergency” calls was 59 minutes. The target time is 18 minutes

  • category 3 "urgent" calls was three hours and 17 minutes. The target time is two hours

  • category 4 "non-urgent" calls was four hours and three minutes. The target time is three hours

Accident and emergency departments also had one of their worst months in July, with a record number of patients - 29,317 - waiting more than 12 hours to be admitted.

Read more: NHS bosses make rare appeal to ministers as UK faces ‘public health emergency’

Richard Murray, chief executive of The King’s Fund, which campaigns to improve health and care in England, said the overall figures made the health service look like it was “stuck in the depths of a particularly dire winter”. Winter is the most difficult time of the year for the NHS.

He warned: “If the next prime minister fails to prioritise action to shore up health and care services, they can expect the NHS and social care to slide even deeper into crisis.”

Health secretary Steve Barclay said last week that the Department of Health is preparing contingency plans for “reasonable worst-case scenarios” ahead of winter.