A family has slammed the ambulance service after a man with a heart condition waited almost three hours to go to hospital.
Horringer businessman Paul Brierley says he was returning from a work trip abroad when he had a call that his father-in-law David White was ill, yet he got to the 65-year-old’s home in Hellions Way, Haverhill, from Southend Airport quicker than the ambulance.
Mr White has a degenerative heart condition and has had a heart bypass, so when he complained of chest pains the family made a 999 call.
“The paramedic arrived in about five minutes and put him on a heart monitor and ECG,” he said. “He arrived at 16.40, stabilised my father-in-law and called the ambulance on his radio. The ambulance arrived at 19.25.
“Three ambulances were on the way and diverted by ambulance control.”
When an ambulance arrived the crew said they had been on break at 5.30pm and were only told of the call afterwards. Mr Brierley says all three ambulance staff ‘were disgusted’ at what had happened.
“He could easily have died,” Mr Brierley said. ““What are we going to do next time? We can get to Addenbrooke’s in half an hour from Haverhill. Do we put him in the car or use the ambulance?”
East of England Ambulance Service has regularly failed to meet its emergency response targets and the Department of Health last week tasked Anthony Marsh, chief executive of West Midlands Ambulance Service, to make recommendations for improvements.
An EEAST spokeswoman said: “This was not a heart attack as diagnosed by a paramedic who arrived on scene within four minutes, and not life threatening therefore grade two (lower urgency) back up was requested rather than grade one which is reserved for critical patients.
“Because we were extremely busy crews were diverted to life-threatening grade 1 back up calls and, while we did not get back up to the patient in the timeframe we would have liked, it was not critical and he was being looked after and monitored by a clinician throughout.”
Asked why if it was not life threatening the paramedic would not let the family take him by car, she said: “Heart attacks and life-threatening situations aren’t the only parameters that prevent patients being taken by car.”
Mr White returned home after hospital treatment.