Concerns about ambulance response times to injured footballers in Lowestoft area

AN investigation was demanded by Waveney's MP this week into why it took more than 90 minutes for an ambulance to attend a football match where a player was lying injured on the pitch.

Kirkley and Pakefield centre forward Kyle Baker was left in agony by a tackle during the first half of a Ridgeons Premier League match against Clacton on Saturday and was forced to leave the field on a stretcher.

But when the club dialled 999, it took more than an hour and a half for an ambulance to arrive.

Club officials were initially told to take the striker to the A&E department at the James Paget University Hospital, but when his condition appeared to worsen, a second call was made and this eventually led to an ambulance being sent to the scene.

Waveney MP Peter Aldous, who sponsored the match and was among the spectators watching the game at Walmer Road, Pakefield, said he was concerned by how long it took for an ambulance to arrive.

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Mr Aldous said Mr Baker was clearly in a lot of pain, that there were fears he had suffered a broken leg, and that he was told the player at one point appeared to be 'going in and out of consciousness'.

However, an East of England Ambulance Service spokesman said that as soon as it was aware of the possible seriousness of the situation it sent a duty operations manager 'within four minutes' and he had treated Mr Baker until an ambulance arrived. As a result, it says, its response was 'absolutely appropriate'.

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The drama unfolded last Saturday afternoon as Kirkley and Pakefield were on their way to a 2-1 defeat to Clacton. Kevin Coyle, the Essex side's captain, was sent off for the challenge in which Mr Baker was injured.

Although he was initially thought to have broken his leg, it later emerged he had suffered ankle ligament damage.

Mr Aldous told The Journal: 'He was in extreme pain and clearly should have got to the hospital much, much quicker. It took an hour or so for the ambulance to get there which really I think in the circumstances, and with the nature of the injury, was unacceptable. I therefore have written to Hayden Newton, CEO of the East of England Ambulance Service, asking for an investigation as to why this was the case.'

Kirkley and Pakefield club secretary Barrie Atkins said it took 70 minutes for the ambulance to reach Mr Baker – and claimed the club had seen other incidents where injured players had waited a long time for an ambulance.

He said while injuries sometimes turned out to be less serious than first feared, in the immediate aftermath of an incident it was very difficult to know for certain how badly a player had been hurt.

During the first phone call to the ambulance service at 3.39pm, a member of its clinical support desk told the club to drive the injured player to the James Paget because the injury was not deemed 'serious'. However, at 4.44pm, a second call was made because Mr Baker appeared to be going in and out of consciousness.

The duty operations manager arrived within four minutes of this and, after he had assessed Mr Baker, he rang for an ambulance that turned up 10 minutes later at 5.14pm – more than an hour and a half after the club's first call.

Mr Baker was taken to the James Paget for treatment, arriving there at 5.36pm. He is now back home in Lowestoft recovering, but he is unlikely to play football again for four to six weeks.

Yesterday, the ambulance service spokesman defended its response to the incident. She said: 'The patient was treated and assessed on scene as this was a higher grade call, although still not critical or life threatening, before an ambulance was called to transport to A&E at 5.04pm. This arrived 10 minutes later, 30 minutes after the second call, throughout which the patient was being treated by a highly trained and fully equipped clinician.

The course of action was 'absolutely appropriate and necessary', she said, and correct procedures were followed 'so that patients whose lives depend on getting ambulances quickly can get them.'

In response to claims that football injuries appeared to be given a low priority, the spokesman added: 'It must be remembered that 999 is for patients in critical conditions who need a quick response and clinical management and treatment en route to hospital. Less serious calls will be referred to our clinical support desk for thorough triage by a nurse or assessed on scene by a clinician before an double-staffed ambulance is called.

'This ensures ambulances are not diverted unnecessarily from patients in life-threatening conditions.'

In a separate incident, Ronnie Socratous, chairman of Blundeston Magpies football club, is also planning to write to the ambulance service after a player was hurt during a match at Denes High School, Lowestoft, on Saturday.

The team was playing Waveney Reserves in the First Division of the Lowestoft and District League when the player, who did not want to be named, was injured during a tackle.

Mr Socratous said the player was in a huge amount of pain, but when they dialled 999 they were told an ambulance would not be available for an hour. Instead they had to take the player to the JPH in a van.

However, the ambulance service spokesman said: 'The non-serious leg injury at Denes High School meant the patient could be driven to A&E without the need for a fully crewed ambulance.'

•What do you think? Send your views to Postbox, The Journal, 147, London Road North, Lowestoft NR32 1NB or email including your name and address.

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