Why 93-year-old Norfolk woman with broken hip waited seven hours for ambulance
- Credit: Archant Norfolk
An ambulance trust has revealed the pressure staff were under on the day an elderly woman with a broken hip waited seven hours for medics to arrive.
The 93-year-old fell at her home at Stradsett, near Downham Market, at around 12.30pm on Monday, September 17. An ambulance did not attend until 8pm.
Relative James Bagge, said the family called 999 on a number of occasions to find out how long an ambulance would be.
The woman is now recovering after being given a half hip replacement at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
The East of England Ambulance Trust (EEAST) has revealed that on the day she fell, there were 12 double-staffed ambulances and three fast response vehicles available on the day shift across West Norfolk.
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Between 2pm and 4pm on this day EEAST received a total of 63 calls
in the West Norfolk area. Thirty-three of them were patients with
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life threatening conditions or serious illnesses, or so-called Category One or Two calls.
Calls to people suffering conditions like a heart attack or stroke are treated as the highest priorities.
The woman's call was treated as a Category Three. Falls and abdominal pain are classed as a lower priority.
An ambulance would not be sent to someone who had fallen in preference to someone suffering a heart attack.
A spokesman for the trust said: 'More than half of the incidents we respond to every day are to people with serious or life-threatening conditions. We focus on our sickest patients first, and unfortunately that means that people with non-life threatening injuries can wait.
'Falls are the most common call we get. When we have high numbers of calls, we will call patients back to check on their welfare and if their condition has changed. This may mean original assessment could change.'
The EDP understands the woman's case was upgraded from Cat 3 to Cat 2, before an ambulance from neighbouring Cambridgeshire attended.
'On that day, it was our busiest day so far in the month. We attended 2,183 patients – with more than 370 of those being in Norfolk, and about 270 of which being category one and two calls. We cannot predict locations and numbers of accidents and emergencies - but we have a tried and tested method to manage during our busiest times.'
Mr Bagge said: 'I have huge sympathy for the ambulance service and the resources they have but they need a bit of creative thinking about how to provide reassurance for those having to wait.' Mr Bagge said the ambulance service could call people to check on them whilst they were waiting to reassure them.
'They have, I understand a network of first responders,' he added. 'Why didn't they send them to attend to a 93-year-old woman who'd probably broken her hip?'
In May, EEAST revealed an increase in funding would enable it to hire an extra 330 staff and buy another 160 ambulances.
It came after the region's consortium of 19 clinical commissioning groups agreed a six-year contract with the ambulance service.
It will see funding rise from the £213.5m spent in 2017/18 to £225m in 2018/19. Subject to activity remaining as predicted, it will then rise again to £240m in 2019/20. This follows increases in funding over the past two years.