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General View of the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital at Colney Ambulance outside the Accident and Emergency dept N & N/ Hospital / A and E / Picture: James Bass Copy: For: EDP News Eastern Daily Press © 2008 (01603) 772434
Kim Briscoe and Paisley Gilmour, Health correspondent
Wednesday, October 17, 2012
The EDP launched its Ambulance Watch campaign earlier this month in response to concerns about the disparity in response times between urban areas and rural areas, with counties like Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and Suffolk getting a poorer deal than the three other counties in the region.
There have also been long-standing worries about ambulances and their skilled crews being held up at hospitals because they are unable to hand over their patients to A&E departments within 15 minutes.
Many of the complaints we have been hearing about from patients involve back-up delays where a member of ambulance service staff is already on the scene, but then has to wait for hours with a patient for an ambulance to become available to transport them to hospital.
Staff and unions have also voiced their concerns over a shake up of where and when ambulances and other vehicles will be based.
As well as filling out our survey, readers have been telling us about their experiences. Here are some of them:
After being involved in an accident at Wood Dalling in September, a motorist flagged down a driver and an ambulance was called.
When the trainee paramedic finally arrived he was unable to give any pain relief to the injured man.
Between two and three hours later, an ambulance that had been diverted en-route to Wood Dalling, arrived to take him to the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.
The ambulance crew told him they were “shocked” that he had been left so long.
A 72-year-old woman from West Runton waited for two hours on the floor of her garage after a fall in February.
She called the ambulance service twice in that time and once the crew arrived she was told that they had come from Cromer and that it was a “quiet night”.
After complaining about the wait she was told by the crew: “You didn’t say it was urgent.”
In January, a man in Emneth was left waiting for six hours when he called the ambulance service about his severely infected foot.
An ambulance was requested by his GP at 2pm and it wasn’t until 8pm that the crew arrived to take him to hospital in King’s Lynn.
In this time, the 52-year-old had passed out and hit his head on a radiator and the cellulitis infection had spread to his leg.
A patient from Cromer was left bleeding from a head wound for four hours because no ambulances were available to take him to casualty.
An emergency 999 call was made at 1pm and a paramedic arrived an hour later. The paramedic repeatedly called through a red alert but the ambulance did not arrive until 5pm.
A kidney patient told us that she was made to wait for an hour after her appointment only to be told that she would have to wait another hour for the hospital transport service to take her home.
She was in great discomfort and had no option but to take a taxi home to Wisbech, which cost her £50.
An ambulance drove straight past a couple’s home in Beccles last October because its satellite navigation equipment could not find the address.
The ambulance was then 40 minutes late to pick them up.
They said that they have had a number of hospital admissions since then and the only way they can be sure of a rapid response is if a local driver is on duty.
A Cromer resident said: “How can one expect an ambulance response time of eight minutes when the round trip to the Norfolk and Norwich from the North Norfolk coast is one-and-a-half hours? Looking at where the main hospitals are sited, one can see that the residents of North Norfolk are most likely to get the poorest service.”
A cancer patient suffering with pneumonia was faced with a two-hour wait at the hospital on a busy Saturday night.
The ambulance crew, who had arrived at his Aylsham home after 10 minutes, had to wait with him until he could be seen and admitted.
A King’s Lynn family told us about their elderly neighbour, a cancer patient, who called an ambulance in April.
When the ambulance arrived, their neighbour was told that he shouldn’t have called 999 as he was not an emergency and that he would be assessed and taken home again.
After two months in hospital the ambulance service took him back to the wrong house.
He was at home with his son and grandson for one night before he died.
In September, a father and son waited for six-and-a-half hours for an ambulance to reach them in Mulbarton. The ambulance was called at 5.45pm. Later, they were called by the service to say an ambulance would be with them soon.
The son made another emergency call at 10.45pm and at 11.40pm a paramedic arrived. The ambulance arrived 25 minutes later at 12.05am.
A Norfolk patient told us: “I have nothing but praise for the hospital and ambulance crews who give a very good service under difficult and restricted conditions. I actually feel sorry for the ambulance crews who, when I asked if they could leave me in the queue to get a cup of tea, said they were not allowed to. It will get worse as more and more houses are built in the area.”
A patient at the James Paget University Hospital in Gorleston sat in a corridor for two hours before being seen by hospital staff.
The ambulance crew stayed with her while she waited to be seen.
She told us: “If I had been handed to the hospital staff quicker, the ambulance staff could have gone to another incident.”
A woman in Aylsham who had recently had a hip replacement dialled 999 when it dislocated and an ambulance was with her 35 minutes later.
When she got to the Norfolk and Norwich hospital there was a queue of ambulances outside casualty. She was in a lot of pain and faced with a three-hour wait to be seen.
After being assessed it was a further two hours before she was admitted to the surgical ward for the three-minute procedure she needed.
A woman from Aylsham called an ambulance for her husband who she suspected was having a heart attack.
The paramedics and ambulance arrived within 15 minutes and took the couple to the Norfolk and Norwich hospital where the man was treated.
They told us: “We cannot recall any delay in our reception at the hospital. We could not have had better treatment. We must keep these excellent, professional, caring people.
A man was taken by ambulance to the Norfolk and Norwich hospital from his home in Thorpe St Andrew.
On arrival there were no beds available and the paramedics waited with him for more than an hour.
A family member said: “Two other patients, each with two paramedics, were also waiting in the queue for a bed. That meant six paramedics and three ambulances were out of action for an hour or more while the paramedics stayed with their patients. If this scenario is repeated across all three acute hospitals in Norfolk then it can only mean that the utilisation of emergency ambulances and their paramedic crew is poor.”
A Banham man with cellulitis was faced with a six-hour wait for an ambulance after a fall meant he couldn’t stand using his infected leg.
An ambulance was called at 12.30pm and after several calls to check where the ambulance was, a paramedic arrived at 6.30pm and the ambulance a few minutes later.
Once at the hospital, he was faced with another wait, and was not given a bed until 8pm.
He told us: “The fault is not with the actual crews. It seems to me to be with the initial contact and who decides what an emergency is and what isn’t. Even though I wasn’t hurt, sitting on a floor for six hours was no joke.”
A woman was taken ill in September with severe abdominal pains and a doctor was called out to her home in Lowestoft.
The doctor arranged for her to be taken to the James Paget University Hospital in the early afternoon and it was not until 6.30pm that she received a call from the ambulance service explaining that there would be some delay. In the late evening, when her condition had deteriorated, she called 999 and an ambulance arrived within 30 minutes.
An 81-year-old woman waited for an hour-and-a-quarter to be seen once she had arrived at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Kings Lynn.
The ambulance had arrived at her home in Swaffham after 20 minutes but when she got to the hospital, the paramedics had to wait to hand her over to hospital staff. She told us that she has been to hospital many times but this was the longest that she has ever had to wait.