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RAF veteran from Romney Marsh left waiting for ambulance for more than three hours after fall

ByMolly Mileham-Chappell

A carer has expressed her frustration about ambulance response times after her injured father was left waiting hours in the rain.

John Elgar-Whinney, who is prone to falls and also has prostate cancer, suffered a nasty tumble at his home in Lydd on Saturday night, which resulted in a broken thigh bone.

But his daughter Elizabeth Elgar said she is ‘upset and disgusted’ at the dispatch system in place, after her elderly dad was not visited by emergency services for more than three hours.

Elizabeth Elgar and her father John Elgar-Whinney before the accident
Elizabeth Elgar and her father John Elgar-Whinney before the accident

She said: “I know the NHS is in a bad way but I’m disgusted. It’s not acceptable.”

Mr Elgar-Whinney, 83, served in the RAF in the 1950s and used to work at Dungeness Power Station.

He and his daughter arrived home at about 9pm from a family wedding when the pensioner caught his foot in shingle on the drive. When Miss Elgar tried to help him up, he complained he could not move his leg.

Despite three phone calls to 999, starting just after 9pm, no teams arrived until gone midnight.

Miss Elgar, 52, gave up work at Lloyds bank in New Romney in 2015 to care for her dad. Her mother died 21 years ago.

She was concerned he could be at risk of hypothermia when it started raining at around 11pm and she recorded the temperature to be just six degrees. She was helped by a friend who had been dog-sitting for her.

“I said, ‘He’s going to die’..." Elizabeth Elgar

She added that he had been dressed in his best suit for the special day: “We did all we could with blankets, foil and umbrellas.

“I said, ‘He’s going to die’. The time delay is what I was worried about.”

She said that Kent Fire and Rescue Service arrived around 12.20am and set up a shelter made from tarpaulin tied to the house, while an ambulance arrived around 20 minutes later.

Miss Elgar claimed the paramedics were sent from Hastings in Sussex - something she believes is worrying for the future.

It was confirmed last month that emergency care at the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford could become a thing of the past if a new 'super-hospital' is built in Canterbury. Miss Elgar said: “We are out on a limb here on Romney Marsh and we haven’t got the coverage.”

She thanked the service men and women for their help: “It’s not the people - they do their best against what they’ve got. It’s the system.”

Her father is now recovering at the William Harvey Hospital after an operation on the break in his femur.

It was confirmed last month that emergency care at the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford could become a thing of the past if a new 'super-hospital' is built in Canterbury. Picture: Paul Amos.
It was confirmed last month that emergency care at the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford could become a thing of the past if a new 'super-hospital' is built in Canterbury. Picture: Paul Amos.

A South East Coast Ambulance Service (SECAmb) spokesman said: “We take any concerns raised seriously and we are very sorry that we were not able to respond to this call as quickly as we would like.

“We assess each emergency call and prioritise them based on the nature of the patient’s injuries or illness.

“In this case, the call was categorised as a Category Three call which should have received a response within two hours.

“Demand on our service at the time of the call was very high and an ambulance arrived at the scene approximately three hours and 20 minutes after the original call and some 25 minutes after fire service ambulance co-responders attended following us assigning them to the call.

“We have a duty to prioritise our response to life-threatening calls.

“This means that at times of particularly high demand, lower priority calls can wait longer than we would like and sometimes have ambulances assigned to them only for them to be diverted to another call.

"We are very sorry that we were not able to respond to this call as quickly as we would like..." SECAmb spokesman

“We appreciate that this delay would have been extremely distressing and that Mr Elgar-Whinney would have been in a considerable amount of pain and discomfort.

“We would invite him or his family to contact us directly so that we can look into and investigate these concerns in more detail.”

The spokesman added: “We have committed to spending a recently announced increase in our funding on improving frontline services by bringing in additional staff and vehicles.

“This will help us respond in a more timely manner, in particular to lower priority patients, who may not be in a life-threatening condition but still require an ambulance response.

“We wish Mr Elgar-Whinney a good recovery and we are sorry the level of service he received fell below the standard we expect.”


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