A PENSIONER who fell and broke her hip waited three hours for an ambulance because she was “42nd in the queue”, an MP has revealed.
The long wait is the latest evidence that the performance of the North East Ambulance Services (NEAS) is “spiralling out of control”, Pat Glass warned.
The 999 incident, which happened late last month, comes hard-on-the-heels of other worrying cases of patients waiting several hours for an ambulance across the region, highlighted by North-East MPs.
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This week, a Commons debate was told that an ambulance manager had admitted the cash-strapped service was unable to answer emergency calls quickly enough.
Ms Glass, the North West Durham MP said: “Cases have been raised with me every week. The latest one involved an elderly lady who fell outside and broke her hip.
“When her son rang to find out where the ambulance was, he was told that she was 42nd in the queue.
“She was lying outside with a broken hip for three hours - and that happened in Consett, where there is an ambulance service in the town.”
But, last night, NEAS hit back, hinting at growing frustration at the criticism that it is being “portrayed as a service in crisis”.
A spokeswoman said it was expected to reach 75 per cent of “potentially life threatening situations” within eight minutes – but was close to the 80 per cent mark.
And she suggested people ringing 999 about incidents that were not emergencies – rather than a lack of funding – led to any delays.
The spokeswoman said: “A bottomless pit of cash for NEAS might temporarily ease the situation, but it would not solve the problem.
“It’s more about people using the NHS properly and not tying up valuable resources unnecessarily.”
In the last few weeks, MPs have raised the cases of:
* William Gouldburn, a 73-year-old retired teacher who died after a fall in his Hartlepool bathroom, after waiting around two hours for an ambulance.
* Florence McNeilly, who fell in her Darlington bathroom at 6pm - but paramedics did not arrive at the scene until 10.45pm.
* Jessie Higginbottom, an 82-year-old from Newton Aycliffe who was vomiting blood. An ambulance took almost four hours to arrive.
* An un-named Hartlepool man with kidney failure – when an ambulance did not arrive for two hours ten minutes.
NEAS’s funding has been cut by around ten per cent, in real terms, over the last two years, Hartlepool MP Iain Wright told this week’s debate.
But the spokeswoman also pointed out the knock-on problems caused by well-documented delays checking patients in at casualty departments, which kept ambulances off the road.
And she said: “Over the last 12-months, NEAS has consistently been one of the highest performing ambulance services in the country for reaching emergency patients – yet we are portrayed as a service in crisis.”
There is no national target for reaching ‘green’ - non-life-threatening – calls, but NEAS has set its own target of doing so within one hour.
This week, health minister Jane Ellison, said of NEAS: “Fast response times are being delivered in the vast majority of cases. It exceeds its targets for response times and should be commended.”
However, Ms Glass said North-East MPs were pushing for a further chance to put ministers on the spot next month, saying: “The whole situation is spiralling out of control.”