Wisbech rugby player with suspected spinal injury had to wait half-an-hour for ambulance

15:06 17 October 2012




Cambridgeshire MP Steve Barclay critical of East of England Ambulance Service Trust

A player was left lying on a rugby pitch for 30 minutes with suspected serious injuries, prompting fresh criticism of ambulance response times.

Scrum-half Tim Mason suffered an injury to his upper back and neck during the first half of Wisbech II’s clash with Beccles II at Harecroft Road on Saturday.

North East Cambridgeshire Tory MP Steve Barclay, a former rugby player himself, said last night that the case showed the issue of ambulance response times needed to be taken seriously and sorted out.

First-aiders, who could not move the player due to the nature of the injury, called an ambulance at about 3pm. Paramedics arrived at the ground half an hour later as their last call had been in Swaffham - 27 miles away.

The rugby match had resumed on a neighbouring pitch before the ambulance arrived to treat Mr Mason for what turned out to be bruised vertebrae.

Wisbech II captain Oliver Mackett said: “Tim was just lying there and he was obviously in a lot of pain. He looked seriously injured.

“He was lying in the cold and we had to put stuff over him to keep him warm and wait for the ambulance to turn up. It wasn’t good enough.”

An East of England Ambulance Service Trust (EEAST) spokesman said paramedics needed to get to patients whose “lives are in immediate danger” first to give them the best chance of survival.

The spokesman said: “In order to ensure this can happen it is necessary that other calls are prioritised for slightly longer waits such as this incident.

“This was correctly assessed by our call handler as “spinal pain with no indication of serious injury and the patient otherwise well” for a target wait of 30 minutes.

“This was met having been called at 3pm with an arrival time of 3.30pm.”

The incident sparked fresh criticism of ambulance response times from Mr Barclay who said: “I have already highlighted concerns about ambulance response times, including one incident in Chatteris where an elderly woman waited for two hours.

“As someone who grew up around a rugby club, and whose brother was playing in a match when a team-mate was paralysed, I view this very seriously.”

The MP has previously written to EEAST asking them to investigate three incidents involving poor response times.

Mr Barclay, who once played rugby for Wisbech himself, said Saturday’s incident left him “deeply concerned”.

“My background is very much around playing rugby,” he said. “My father has coached junior rugby for the last 39 years and was actually honoured in the New Year’s Honours List for his contribution.

“I will be asking questions of the ambulance trust to understand what happened.

“There is also a wider issue, which is where are ambulances being sent from and why.”

The EEAST spokesman added: “The eight-minute target only applies to immediately life-threatening incidents.”


  • Well if the injury had turned out to be serious then this could be considered poor performance. But it would appear that the staff who took the 999 call, got it spot on. 30 mins is a pretty good response to be honest and its unreasonable to expect an ambulance to be waiting on every street corner all the time. Mr Barclay needs to be more realistic with his expectations. For once, I support the ambulance service on this one.

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    Wednesday, October 17, 2012

  • No you are wrong Frankly. The ambulance service had no way of knowing how serious a spinal injury was going to be-only a doctor could begin to say that, they were guessing on the basis of what first aiders told them and were lucky they were correct. The ambulance was in Swaffham and the article seems to be saying there was not one to be spared closer to Wisbech-it could have been a road accident or a farm worker with his arm sliced off in beet harvester bleeding to death. If the dispatcher took it upon themselves to decide a spinalneck injury in a rugby game was not urgent then they obviously did not consider frequency of serious spinal injury in the game. The problem seems to be that they have not got enough ambulances to cope with the distances in the rural areas- and in West Norfolk and the Fens the road journeys are often much longer because there are so many rivers and drains to get across and poor roads. And the hospitals are a long way apart. They need to provide more ambulances.

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    Daisy Roots

    Wednesday, October 17, 2012

  • The point here is not that paramedics were busy treating people whose lives were in immediate danger, but that they were so far away after their previous call that it took 30 minutes to get there. The problem is too few ambulances, not the principle that life threatening conditions need to be the top priority.

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    a fine city

    Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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