Ambulance service apologises after woman left lying on Cornhill for 2 hours
- Credit: DAVID VINCENT/SIMON PARKER/GREGG BROWN
NHS bosses have apologised after an elderly woman lay on the ground with a head injury for two hours waiting for an ambulance after a fall outside Ipswich Town Hall.
Don Stubbs, a market trader, described hearing a "dull thud" at around 1.30pm on Friday afternoon and turning around to see an elderly woman lying on the floor at the foot of the Town Hall steps.
He said: "When I turned round I saw her laying on the floor.
"I would say she was mid-to-late seventies. She'd gone straight down the centre of the Town Hall steps. She must've fallen forwards because she'd cracked the front of her head open."
Mr Stubbs said the woman was not bleeding "excessively", but she seemed to be unable to move.
A member of staff from inside the Town Hall stayed with the woman, wrapping her in blankets and holding an umbrella over her. A gazebo was also put over the woman.
"I was just gobsmacked at how long it took the ambulance to get here," he said.
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"It was really really bitterly cold yesterday and then it started to rain as well."
Mr Stubbs said it took two-and-a-quarter hours for an ambulance to arrive.
He added: "I don't know what's gone wrong with the system, but something has obviously gone majorly wrong.
"I did say to my missus when I got home, don't get ill. It makes you worry that if something happens to you, you won't get seen."
Andrew Bavington-Barber, who runs the Hot Sausage Company, said several customers told him of their shock at the incident.
"I had maybe three customers mention it," he said. "One had been over to see if she was alright.
"It's a bit concerning that an elderly lady had to wait so long in the cold."
Councillor Sarah Barber said Ipswich Borough Council would carry out an investigation into what caused the fall and would look to see if any improvements could be made.
But Mrs Barber, who also works as a nurse at Ipswich Hospital, said: "The ambulance service is clearly under a lot of pressure, the operations manager said the ambulance service was very good at keeping the staff looking after the lady updated as to when they would be arriving.
"I'm sure the paramedics and the frontline staff don't want to keep people who are injured waiting — lying on the ground for that length of time.
"The NHS is chronically underfunded and the ambulance service is right at the front of the pressure they are facing.
"The British Medical Association is already saying it is going to be a really tough winter because of Covid, the long waiting-lists that have occurred after Covid and the usual winter pressures. I think we're starting to see that now.
"It's really difficult for staff working in the NHS. We all go to work to do the best job that we can, but we have to do it within the constructs of where we work and sometimes patients have to wait longer than we really want them too.
"Thank you to the paramedics and the ambulance crews who do an amazing job, but this is a symptom of the pressures the NHS is under."
Mrs Barber went on to thank the council employees who cared for the woman while she waited for an ambulance.
She said: "They stayed with her and kept her as comfortable as they possibly could do.
"One of the market traders put a gazebo over the woman and it was very kind of them to do that."
An East of England Ambulance Service spokesman said: "On Friday we received a call to a woman who had fallen near Ipswich Town Hall.
"This had been assigned as a C2 call – our second most serious priority.
"We twice tried to send an ambulance to the incident, but on both occasions had to divert the resource to more serious patients.
"A third ambulance did attend along with a rapid response vehicle and the patient was transported to Ipswich hospital for further assessment and care.
"We are currently experiencing an extremely high demand for our services and every patient is triaged and prioritised in terms of clinical need.
"We would like to apologise to the patient and her family for any distress caused and would invite them to contact us directly to discuss the case."