AMBULANCE bosses have been criticised after it took more than four hours for a 999 crew to reach an elderly woman who was vomiting blood.

Bob Clark, 60, from Newton Aycliffe, was appalled at the length of time it took for an ambulance to pick his 82-year-old mother up from her care home and take her to hospital.

Mr Clark, who works for County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service, was called by staff at the Lindisfarne Care Home in Newton Aycliffe at about 3.30pm on Sunday and told his mother was vomiting blood.

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Nurses at the home also rang 999 and asked for an ambulance at that time.

But it took a total of five more 999 calls - four by staff and one by Mr Clark – before an ambulance arrived at about 6.50pm, almost four-and-a-half hours after the initial 999 call.

Mrs Higginbottom was then taken to Darlington Memorial Hospital and admitted. Doctors told Mr Clark his mother was "very ill".

Mr Clark said he had contacted the ambulance service control on Sunday afternoon and asked why it was taking so long.

He said he was told that the case was “not urgent enough”, there was a nurse already in attendance and the service were dealing with a higher than expected number of calls.

When he got to Darlington Memorial Hospital he said his mother was “covered in blood”.

Carol Jones, manager at the care home, said: “You don’t mind waiting 15 minutes if you ring 999 but not that long.”

A spokeswoman for NEAS said: “This was a green call, which means non-life threatening, and at no point was classified as a red emergency – the most serious type of incident we respond to.

“Every call to the ambulance service is a judgement call. We have to decide who is in most urgent need at that particular time.

"Sunday was exceptionally busy, with call volumes 20 per cent higher than normal. In all, we dealt with more than 1,100 incidents.

“From the first call to when we eventually arrived, five different vehicles had been despatched – but on each occasion were diverted to red incidents, where life was in immediate danger. A nurse was with the patient at the care home throughout.

“NEAS currently has the best response times for emergency calls in England and Wales, reaching 80 per cent of the most serious patients within eight minutes.