Ambulance service apologises over delay after elderly woman falls in Sheringham flat

Shannock Court residents (with sheltered accommodation manager Sharon Bowen (centre left) and Overst

Shannock Court residents (with sheltered accommodation manager Sharon Bowen (centre left) and Overstrand Methodist minister Sharon Willimott) show off the knitted decorations they created from a recycled woolly sea serpent. - Credit: Archant

The ambulance service has apologised after an elderly woman had to wait nearly two hours for paramedics to arrive at her sheltered accommodation flat where she fell.

The 77-year-old was in her flat in the privately run Shannock Court complex, on George Street, Sheringham, when the accident happened at 11.21am on Thursday January 16. She was not taken to hospital and was not injured.

Manager Sharon Bowen raised concerns after the ambulance arrived at 1.08pm that day, but has not made an official complaint to the East of England Ambulance Service Trust.

A trust spokesman said the ambulance had to be diverted to a more life-threatening incident while on its way to the flat.

That had been the case when another ambulance was sent to the same complex the following day at 7.07am - it arrived at 8.09am.

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The trust spokesman said: 'We would like to apologise to the patients for the delay in getting an ambulance to them. On both occasions ambulances were dispatched earlier but had to be diverted to more life threatening incidents including two patients with breathing difficulties and a patient experiencing abdominal pains.

'As an immediate priority area the trust is looking to increase front line staff on ambulances, particularly paramedic staffing.'

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A private careline service rang 999 after the elderly woman alerted the company through a pendant around her neck. She was cared for by neighbours and Ms Bowen, but no-one was trained in first aid.

Ms Bowen said when the paramedics arrived they said the careline service should have rung Norfolk Swift response, run by Norfolk County Council.

The 24/7 service helps people who have an urgent need, mainly in their own home.

She said: 'We all understand how the paramedics have got to be in other places and we understand an elderly person might not need treatment but who is to say that is not the case.'

The trust spokesman added: 'We work with local authorities who offer other services such as Norfolk Swift Response that can be used by social care providers at their own discretion.'

North Norfolk MP and care minister Norman Lamb said a lot of the 'horror stories' appearing in the press involved non-urgent cases.

'They are often not life-threatening but can be awful if an old lady is left waiting for hours for help.'

The system was driven by the need to hit eight minute target times when 'in most cases 15 minutes would be fine' - and he had raised the matter at the highest level with NHS medical director Sir Bruce Keogh

Other parts of the country were also ahead of Norfolk with new systems of community responders – a mix of health and care professionals who were dealing with causes which did not need an ambulance trip to hospital.

He would also like to see closer links between GPs and care homes – where there was the greatest concentration of people with care needs, but where there was currently a 'variable picture'.

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