SENIOR community nurses are to be asked to offer support to patients experiencing long waits for ambulances over the winter that have left older people sometimes lying on the floor in pain.

Under the plan, community matrons and GPs will be asked to offer support and pain relief to older patients who have fallen and who cannot be reached by an ambulance in less than an hour.

The move is expected to come into effect next week and will apply to community and primary care staff in areas under the management of County Durham’s two clinical commissioning groups.

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Dr Stewart Findlay, chief clinical officer for Durham Dales, Easington and Sedgefield Clinical Commissioning Group, said the idea was not about replacing ambulances with nurses and doctors and would only be used in “a fairly rare number of cases”.

He said: “We’ve had a few cases of elderly people lying on the floor waiting three, four or five hours. No clinician wants to think of an elderly person lying in pain like that.”

The British Medical Association has welcomed using nurses as first responders when ambulances are slow to arrive.