A pensioner fell in the snow and was left waiting 10 hours for ambulance in what the service admitted was an “unacceptable delay”.
Kath Smith, 89, of Empingham Road, Normanton, slipped in the back passage of her cottage at about 11.15am on Monday, March 5, following heavy snowfall. She was carrying out a good deed for her neighbour and putting their bin out.
During the fall, she badly hurt her leg meaning she was unable to get up from the cold concrete. She was eventually discovered after about half an hour when a workman working on one of the nearby cottages heard her cries for help.
He called for an ambulance and was instructed not to move her.
Kath’s son Gary, who was working nearby and came to the scene as soon as he heard what had happened, said: “They rang for an ambulance, and we were told not to move her, which was odd. Why wouldn’t you try and move her and make her more comfortable? She was cold, wet and lying on cold concrete.”
As time ticked on, Gary, his brother Martin, the workman and neighbour Margaret Macpherson called for 999 several times and each time were told not to move her.
At 3pm, with Kath still outside and the ambulance having not arrived, they decided to try and move her inside where it was warm.
Gary said: “She was very distressed, clearly in a lot of pain and just kept saying ‘I want to give up’.
“At 3pm she was still outside, so I decided to call my neighbour Chris, who has an ambulance for motorsport and equine events, as I thought he might be able to make my mum more comfortable.”
Chris Gwilliam, 63, of Empingham Road, answered the call for help and knew Kath needed to get inside quickly.
He said: “I became aware Kath was ill at 3pm when I had a knock on my door asking if I could help. I went to Kath and quickly worked out she was getting cold very fast. She’d already been out in the open for the best part of four hours, so I knew we had to act.
“I have a range of equipment on the ambulances I have, and took some kits from that to help keep her warm.”
The concerned neighbours continued to phone for the ambulance, and decided to move her on a stretcher to the kitchen of Mrs Macpherson.
As Kath waited in the kitchen, now on a stretcher, the concerned group continued to call 999. In total, they phoned the ambulance service nine times before Chris decided enough was enough.
He had already administered gas and air to help Kath with the pain but in his role as a medical volunteer for motorsport and equine events, he is unable to administer the pain relief drugs she needed.
Chris said: “We are not professionals. We can’t administer opiates or morphine, which is what Kath needed. If she had ben given that, I am sure she would have been able to wait, but as we couldn’t administer that, it was clear she needed medical intervention.
“When it was clear the ambulance was not coming, I got the 4x4 ambulance from Langham, 25 minutes away. I then came back, loaded Kath in the back and took her to Peterborough City Hospital.”
Kath finally arrived at the hospital at 10.15pm - 11 hours after her initial fall.
It has since emerged that Kath broke her femur in the fall, an injury which has been complicated by the fact that the break is above her artificial knee.
Gary said: “To leave anyone, let alone an 89-year-old, waiting that long for ambulance is disgusting, ridiculous even.
“I’m grateful to my neighbours and Chris for all their help, but I’m very angry.
“I feel let down, and what makes it even more galling is that when we arrived at the hospital there were loads of ambulance crews waiting to sign their patients off.”
Emas crews are unable to leave their patients until they’ve handed over to hospital staff - and some had been waiting for several hours on the night Kath arrived, which Gary said was “scandalous”.
Chris agreed. He said: “I come in to contact with paramedics through my voluntary work, including some Emas staff, and the problem isn’t the staff. They are all highly skilled and professional.
“The real issue is that there simply isn’t enough cover or resources, and that the resources they have are being spread too thinly. It’s clearly a case of the resources being managed ineffectively.”
Rutland MP Alan Duncan (Con) was made aware of the incidents.
He said: “I am absolutely appalled and disgusted that my elderly constituent was left lying in the icy snow, in pain and extremely distressed for 10 hours, despite neighbours repeatedly calling 999 for an ambulance.
“It is utterly unacceptable that 10 hours after she fell, no ambulance or even a paramedic came to give her the treatment she needed. If her neighbours had not stepped in, I fear there could have been a tragic ending. “