A great-grandmother claims she had to lie waiting for more than 90 minutes in the pouring rain for an ambulance after breaking her hip.
Ann Howles, 70, of Merryburn Close, Fulwood, Preston, slipped as she took her dog for a walk in nearby Holmefield Road and was left lying in agony on the cold footpath.
A passer-by called 999 for an ambulance at 6pm, but after 90 minutes and two more 999 calls, her family say an ambulance still hadn’t arrived, although the exact time taken has been disputed by the North West Ambulance Service (NWAS).
Mrs Howles’ daughter, Julie Higham, 49, said she was forced to flag down a passing police car to finally get an ambulance to her mum.
Mrs Higham said: “I think it’s absolutely disgusting that a 70-year-old woman with a broken hip had to wait that long in the rain for an ambulance.
“I had been swimming with my grandson when I saw I had about 10 missed calls. When I got down there just after 7pm I didn’t expect her to still be lying there.
“I honestly thought she was dead - she’d turned a horrible grey colour and her head was resting on a man’s knee.
“She’d been there an hour already at that point and was wet through and crying in agony.
“I wanted to know why she was still there, so I called 999 again, and I was told that the ambulance service was very busy.
“She had a chest infection and her leg was turned inwards in a funny direction, so you’d have thought with her age, she’d have been a priority.”
Mrs Higham added: “Nobody could get her in their car. Neighbours kept coming out with blankets - one woman even took the hood off her baby’s pram to shield her from the rain - and nobody could believe it was taking so long.
“She was beginning to lose feeling in her leg, so at about 8pm I managed to flag a police car down on the main road, and they radioed through for an ambulance.”
The Evening Post spoke to an eyewitness who helped Mrs Howles, who also said it took over an hour and a half for the paramedics to come.
However, the ambulance service has disputed the claim, saying their logs show the time from the first call to the ambulance arriving was 47 minutes.
An NWAS spokesman said that Mrs Howles’ injury hadn’t been classified as life-threatening, and it wasn’t until the fourth call made to them that she was re-prioritised and an ambulance arrived a short time later, following the accident on April 2.
Mrs Howles grandson Kevin Higham, was also at the scene. He said: “My grandma lives just round the corner from the hospital and yet it took nearly two hours to get her there - I think that’s awful, especially at the age of 70.
“What made it worse was that when we finally did get her into A&E, it was empty.
“The hospital staff were lovely, and they couldn’t believe it had taken so long either.
“I think the ambulance service needs to explain itself, and make sure that nothing like this happens again.”
A spokesman for NWAS said: “We understand that waiting for an ambulance can be distressing for the patient and we apologise for any upset caused as a result of our response.
“All 999 calls are categorised within the control rooms, based on the information given by the caller, to ensure patients are prioritised on the basis of their medical need.
“Although the service strives to attend to every patient as quickly as possible, patients with serious, life-threatening conditions require a more urgent response.
“For this particular incident, we received a call at 6.18pm and it was categorised as not immediately life threatening. Unfortunately at the time of this call we were experiencing high levels of activity and the patient waited longer than anticipated.
“We did receive three further calls for this incident and at 7.02pm the caller confirmed that the patient’s condition had worsened. Due to this information, the incident was re-prioritised and a resource, which was on already en-route, arrived three minutes later at 7.05pm.
“Should the patient or her family wish to make contact with us we would be more than happy to discuss this matter in more detail.”