Injured Hadleigh U18s footballer rushed to A&E in fire engine due to five-hour ambulance wait

Henry Wilkins waiting for his operation in Ipswich Hospital. Picture: CLAIRE WILKINS

Henry Wilkins waiting for his operation in Ipswich Hospital. Picture: CLAIRE WILKINS - Credit: Archant

A 16-year-old footballer who broke his ankle in two places during a match had to be taken to hospital in a fire engine after he was told it would be a five-hour wait for an ambulance.

Firefighters helping at the incident. Picture: PETER TAMPION

Firefighters helping at the incident. Picture: PETER TAMPION - Credit: PETER TAMPION

Hadleigh United U18s central midfielder Henry Wilkins was badly injured 15 minutes into a friendly game against Halstead United yesterday when he fell awkwardly during a tackle with another player.

It was around 7.45pm and an onlooker phoned 999 but they were told it was a busy night and an ambulance was unlikely to arrive until after midnight.

Shortly later, Henry, from Coggeshall, took a turn for the worse, so Hadleigh’s club medic Merv Bignell suggested contacting the fire brigade, which responded straight away and sent a crew to Hadleigh football ground to help.

• NHS announces overhaul of ambulance response targetsFirefighters gave Henry oxygen, put him on a stretcher and rushed him to Ipswich Hospital, where it was found he had broken his tibia and fibula bones.

Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service helping 16-year-old Henry Wilkins after he was injured during a foot

Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service helping 16-year-old Henry Wilkins after he was injured during a football match in Hadleigh. Picture: PETER TAMPION - Credit: PETER TAMPION

That night doctors put Henry under sedation and manipulated his ankle back into place and put it into a cast. He is due to have an operation today.


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Henry’s mother, Claire Wilkins, praised the fire brigade as “absolutely amazing”, and said she was disappointed with the ambulance service’s response.

She added: “I can’t believe they could even say that when actually it was a really serious break. He is a child and he was just laying on a football ground for two hours, freezing cold.

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“I was expecting the ambulance to be there when we got there or to have gone. I was very surprised but I think we were just very lucky that the fire service were so good. The football club people were brilliant as well.”

Terry Adams, president of Hadleigh United, said the fire service had gone “above and beyond the call of duty”.

While Neil Henderson, club secretary, added: “They did a very good job.”

A spokesman for the East of England Ambulance Service apologised to Henry and said it faced “significant pressures” yesterday, receiving almost 150 serious or life-threatening calls in Suffolk.

He added: “We would like to thank our emergency service colleagues for their support whilst we were prioritising those who were in serious or life-threatening conditions.

“We would urge Henry or his family to get in touch if they wish this to be investigated further.”

Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service confirmed its attendance but declined to add further comment.

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