Published: 12:15, 23 June 2022
| Updated: 21:53, 23 June 2022
An elderly woman from Maidstone was left waiting nearly 14 hours for an ambulance after falling over on her driveway.
But the reason for the delay remains a mystery, because when she did eventually arrive at A&E the hospital was not busy.
Janice Price, 78, of Leonard Close, tripped over a step on her driveway on Thursday, June 2, the start of the Jubilee weekend celebrations.
A neighbour, who is a retired nurse, and Mrs Price’s husband, who is 80, managed to get her indoors to bed.
But the nurse suspected Mrs Price had broken her leg and her wrist, and so called the ambulance, at 6.02pm.
That was the start of a long wait.
Mrs Price said: “They kept saying, could I get to the hospital on my own? But I couldn’t walk on the leg."
She said: “They warned that I was a Category 2 case, meaning my injuries were not life-threatening, and so for that reason, it might be a long wait.”
At 11pm, the ambulance service rang to apologise and say they still had no vehicle available, and again asked if Mrs Price could make her own way.
The call was repeated at 1am.
At 3am, Mrs Price rang 999 again, concerned that her leg had started to ooze a “horrible white liquid”.
At 5am, she rang to say she had by then consumed all the recommended daily dose of paracetamol to counter the pain, and "what should she do now?"
She said: “Incredibly they suggested I try to find a pharmacy that was open to get a different painkiller. I’ve no idea how I could do that!”
The ambulance arrived at 7.45am.
Mrs Price said: “Once they arrived the paramedics were marvellous.
“And once I got to the hospital, the staff there were marvellous too.”
But Mrs Price was taken to A&E at the Tunbridge Wells Hospital at Pembury, even though she lives just 2.7 miles by road from Maidstone Hospital.
She said: “I was seen at once. I said to the nurse, ‘have you been particularly busy’? because it didn’t look like it, and she said, ‘No, look at all our empty bays’.”
Mrs Price now plans to write to Health Secretary Sajid Javid to complain. She said: “Such a long delay, it’s just not acceptable.”
Fortunately, the story has a happy ending. Scans showed that neither Mrs Price’s wrist nor leg were broken, and following treatment she is now mobile again.
A South East Coast Ambulance spokesman said: “We are very sorry that we were not able to respond to Mrs Price as quickly as we should have. We remain extremely busy and some patients are waiting far longer than they should while we prioritise our response to our most seriously ill and injured patients. We have been contacted by Mrs Price and will look into our response to her in detail and respond to her directly.”
Statistics were published on Thursday last week showing response times for all ambulances across the country in May.
They showed that all ambulance services continued to face pressure and were not achieving the response time performance expected.
However, SECAmb was ahead of the national average in the highest three categories of call and had one of the shortest response times for Category 2 calls.
A SECAmb spokesman said: "As we continue to face periods of high demand, we would like to thank our staff and volunteers for their hard work and commitment.
"We know that some patients are waiting longer than they should for a response and we are doing everything we can to reach those who need assistance as quickly as possible. We continue to work closely with hospitals across our region to minimise handover delays to ensure we are as best placed as possible to attend patients in the community requiring an ambulance response.
“The public can help us manage demand by only calling 999 in an emergency. We also urge everyone to make use of alternatives to 999 for help and advice including speaking to their GP, a pharmacist, by visiting 111.nhs.uk or calling 111.”