Northern Ireland Ambulance Service apology over grandmother's 999 wait

  • By Marc Mallett

The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service has apologised to the family of a 68-year-old woman for delays in responding to their 999 calls.

It said the strain on its service was well documented and it was under extreme pressure at the time of their calls.

The family said they were devastated and have been told their grandmother may not be the same woman again.

“We just wanted their help. They're supposed to be there to help us. They have broken a family. It’s their job to help," Rachel Bradley told UTV.

Her grandmother Sandra remains in intensive care after suffering a series of heart problems while in Belfast city centre on Saturday 25 June.

She was having lunch with her daughter when she began to experience severe chest pain.

After calling for paramedics Sandra suffered another heart episode and the family claimed she was asked if it would be possible for her to make her own way to hospital and that she was in a queue to receive an ambulance.

Her daughter took her home by taxi from where Sandra went into cardiac arrest.

Another 999 call was made after which the family claimed that three ambulances arrived and she was taken to hospital.

Sandra’s family criticised the Ambulance Service and say she has been failed by the health service.

Rachel said her granny has been placed into an induced coma.

“She's unresponsive," she said.

"They say she went 25 minutes without oxygen to the brain and they've basically told us if she does recover, she'll not be the woman that we remember her to be."

She says she’s angry at the Ambulance Service response. 

In a statement, the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service sincerely apologised to both patient and family who it said waited longer than should be reasonably expected of a 999 call. 

"We would be happy to discuss with the family, directly, any concerns they have in relation to our response to this call," the statement said.

“At the time of the call NIAS was under extreme pressure due to reduced cover in the area along with a high number of calls waiting to be responded to and crews delayed at EDs due to pressures across the entire HSC system.

“At times of extreme pressure, NIAS control staff, when it is clinically appropriate, will ask the caller if it is possible to self-transport. This question is asked routinely in order to ensure that we protect available ambulances to respond to immediately life-threatening calls. The caller is also advised that, if self-transport is not an option, an ambulance will be dispatched when available.

“NIAS has explained through a number of press statements and media interviews the pressures that we have been facing over the past number of months and will continue to face in the months ahead. These pressures are being experienced across the Health and Social Care system. NIAS will continue to prioritise the most clinically ill or injured to ensure they get the quickest response.

"We appreciate the understanding of the public in respect of the situation to date and would ask for their continued patience. We would again ask callers to consider other options than dialling 999 to address their needs. However, if the situation is immediately life-threatening, we would advise that patients call 999 without delay."