Elderly man with broken hip strapped hot water bottles to his legs to stay warm while waiting 13 hours for an ambulance
PUBLISHED: 10:31 25 January 2018 | UPDATED: 12:08 25 January 2018
An 85-year-old man with a broken hip feared for his life as he lay on his freezing conservatory floor with hot-water bottles strapped to his legs during a 13-hour wait for an ambulance.
Roy Brittain, a retired lecturer, asked himself: ‘Am I going to get through this?’ as time ticked by during a icy cold snap, we can today reveal.
His ordeal is the latest in a string of horror stories as pressure mounts on the government to tackle the crisis in the NHS - and East of England Ambulance Trust specifically.
Yesterday, Theresa May was confronted by Waveney MP Peter Aldous during Prime Minister’s Questions. Mr Aldous told her of a whistleblower’s revelation that a man froze to death in Lowestoft last month while waiting 16 hours for an ambulance.
MORE: Young mother forced to wait six hours for ambulance after falling down stairs and hitting head
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn spoke of the damning dossier revealed last week, where a senior staff member in the trust said 19 people died and a further 21 were harmed in less than three weeks between mid-December and early January.
It is estimated that by the time investigations finish, as many as 80 cases could be recorded.
Among those incidents was that of Mr Brittain, who fell while in his workshop at home in Fox Hill, St Cross South Elmham, Harleston.
After dragging himself into the conservatory so his wife Joyce, who was in the shower, could hear his cries for help they called 999 and were told the wait would be six hours.
MORE: Council paid ‘golden hellos’ to free up beds amid warning NHS crisis will continue
But instead, Mr Brittain lay on the floor for 13 hours as he was told by operators not to move in case he did further damage.
Mr Brittain said: “We called some friends who had some duvets. My legs were really cold, we had hot water bottles strapped to them and a mini heater. But it was a long, long wait.”
In the Commons yesterday, Mr Corbyn said: “According to a whistleblower, as many as 80 patients were harmed or died following significant ambulance delays over a three-week period this winter. This is a very serious situation, and the prime minister must be aware of it. What investigation is the Department of Health carrying out into these deeply alarming reports?”
Mrs May said the reports were “alarming” and investigations would be carried out. She said: “If there are lessons to be learned, they will be learned.”
MORE: Hospital staff receive sweeping praise after winter dominated by intense pressure and limited resources
During the debate, Mr Aldous, Conservative MP for Waveney, called on Mrs May to endorse his plea for a “full and independent investigation” into the Lowestoft case.
He said he had spoken to the person who made the initial call to 999 and he had “serious concerns about how the incident was handled, including why the case only came to light in the past few days”.
Mrs May said health secretary Jeremy Hunt was aware and was discussing it with chief executives at NHS England and NHS Improvement.
The region’s NHS came under intense pressure between mid-December and early January.
MORE: Man froze to death while waiting 16 hours for an ambulance, whistleblower claims, while 19 more died or were harmed due to delays
All three of Norfolk’s hospitals were full at points, patients were treated in corridors and ambulances were forced to queue at A&E departments for hours - preventing them from getting back on the road.
East of England Ambulance Trust said last week: “We are aware of the claims made by MPs but note no complaints have been received from patients or their families at this time. Nor have any concerns been expressed internally through our line management, whistleblowing or freedom to speak up processes.”
And of Mr Brittain’s wait a spokesman added: “We’d like to apologise to the patient and their family for any distress caused. We tried as hard as possible to get to people as quickly possible.
“Because of the unprecedented demand over the winter period, we prioritised the sickest patients.”
MORE: Good Samaritan drove elderly stranger to hospital after being told an ambulance would take 10 hours
They said they received a call at 3.05pm on December 13th, and an ambulance arrived at 4am the next morning.
The spokesman added: “While the patient and family is understandably upset, on this day we received 4,000 calls. Our highest call numbers over this period was 4,800.
“We’d urge the patient to get in touch with the trust directly.”
In a letter to Norwich South MP Clive Lewis, EEAST chief executive Robert Morton said the leading cause for serious incidents over Christmas and New Year were handover delays.
In the letter, seen by this newspaper, Mr Morton said not being able to hand patients over at A&E departments “result in delayed responses to patients in the community where ambulances are not released within the expected timeframe”.
MORE: Region’s ambulance service could need 120 more staff and 20 extra vehicles, senior manager says
It is believed out of 21 serious incidents currently being investigated by the trust, some 16 relate to delays at the front door.
He also revealed an independent review of EEAST had “identified a significant gap in our capacity and recommends the necessary investment to enable our trust to implement additional capacity and further improvements.”
And at the trust’s board of director’s meeting yesterday he said focus would be put on handover delays.
What is a risk summit?
A risk summit run by NHS England and NHS Improvement will be held to look into the issues at EEAST.
This is when a number of organisations come together after serious quality failings are found, and guidelines said should only be used as a last resort.
MORE: A&E bosses warn of ‘intolerable’ safety risks as visitors describe “heartbreaking” staff pressures at N&N
A spokesman for NHS England said the summit would be held in the next few days, but could not confirm exactly when, where, or who would be attending.
However, guidelines say top health executives as well as the regulator (the Care Quality Commission), commissioners and the local authority would usually be involved.
MORE: The reality of the NHS crisis from inside a Norfolk hospital
An NHS England spokesman said: “Together they agree whether actions are required to ensure patient safety and quality can be guaranteed in the short, medium and longer term and whether further risk summits are required.”