Norwich North MP Chloe Smith.

MP describes Thorpe St Andrew 86-year-old’s three-hour wait for an ambulance as “disgraceful”

Friday, December 7, 2012
6.30 AM

Neighbours have spoken of their outrage at an 86-year-old woman being left on the street for almost three hours while she waited for an ambulance.

As reported in yesterday’s Evening News, Daphne Shaw broke her thigh bone in Gargle Hill, Thorpe St Andrew, and was not treated for three hours - instead of the 20 minutes it should have taken for an ambulance to reach her.

Mrs Shaw was left in excruciating pain lying on her back after falling while getting in a car outside her home at midday on Monday.

Several neighbours came to the aid of Mrs Shaw and her two elderly friends who had come to pick her up, bringing hot water bottles, blankets and other supplies.

Jane Kiddell and Nigel White were two of the people who helped. Mrs Kiddell, 64, said: “All the neighbours came out to help. Our nextdoor neighbour took out hot water bottles and blankets and another lad took out a load of bubble wrap to wrap around her as well.”

Mrs Kiddell said that if one of her family was kept waiting for an ambulance for three hours she would “go ballistic” and added: “We were annoyed. My husband phoned the ambulance again and said ‘if you don’t get out here soon then you’re going to be collecting three corpses’, because her friend had taken his jacket off to keep her warm and he and his wife were both old, but they didn’t dare move her.”

Mr White added: “Whether it is because of the government making cuts or whatever, I don’t know, but they are not based locally any more, so you tell them you’re in Thorpe St Andrew and they’ve got no idea.

“The man on the phone said they were just really busy and had to prioritise but how can you not prioritise an old lady lying in the cold with a broken leg? They should have been out here sooner.”

Mrs Shaw’s nephew, Mick Barnes, from Gordon Avenue in Thorpe, has branded the incident “a disgrace” and Mrs Shaw’s friend, James Tate described it as “scandalous”.

Mr Tate, 90, from Drayton, had collected his wife Nancy, who is a lifelong friend of Mrs Shaw’s, from the Woodland care home in Hellesdon and was taking her to the Oaklands Hotel in Thorpe for lunch.

But Mrs Shaw fell between the kerb and the car and broke her femur, or thigh bone. Mrs Shaw underwent an operation on Tuesday and is expected to remain at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital for around 10 days before being transferred to rehab.

Another Gargle Hill resident, who asked not to be named, said: “It’s ridiculous, the poor old dear. When I got home we were blocked from getting to the house because the ambulance was in the road but if I had got there before the ambulance I would have been suggesting they rang the police.

“The (Laundry Lane) recreation ground is just behind these houses, they could have landed a helicopter there and the poor woman wouldn’t have had to lay in the road for three hours. She was obviously quite frail to break her femur from a fall so they should have got here quicker.”

The trust said yesterday that it had been graded a Green 1 call which is classed as serious but not life-threatening and requires a 20-minute response.

An EEAST spokesman said: “We do our very best to get to patients within the appropriate time frame, but sometimes this is a challenge if we’re very busy elsewhere with more serious cases such as cardiac arrests, strokes and unconsciousness.

“The Trust is however currently planning resources better to fit in with where and when demand lies in an effort to improve response times.”

An East of England Ambulance Service Trust (EEAST) spokesman has said an “unprecedented” amount of calls had caused Mrs Shaw’s three-hour wait.

However a local MP has blasted the situation as “disgraceful”.

EEAST had graded the situation as a ‘Green 1’ call, which is classed as serious but not life-threatening and requires a 20-minute response.

There were around 40 ambulances active in Norfolk early on Monday afternoon, while Mrs Shaw lay in Gargle Hill with a broken leg, the EEAST spokesman said.

Norwich North MP Chloe Smith said: “This is a disgraceful episode and I am really sorry to hear that Mrs Shaw was so badly treated.

“The ambulance service has some questions to answer as, along with other MPs in the area, I have quizzed them already on their current service and some severe problems which seem to be happening all too often.”

Health minister Norman Lamb, MP for North Norfolk, is in Norwich today for a meeting with EEAST officials, as well as hospital bosses, care organisation and local GPs.

An EEAST spokesman, in response to Mrs Shaw’s problems, said: “The Trust is currently planning resources better to fit in with where and when demand lies in an effort to improve response times.”

Mr Lamb is hoping today’s meeting will clarify those plans further as he feels the various organisations involved with local health care need to be working towards finding a smoother system.

He said: “We can’t have a continuation of these stories because each of these cases of people in distress, or someone left outside in the freezing cold like this lady, is not good health care, to be blunt.”

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