A 93-year-old woman with a suspected hip fracture was left “screaming in pain” on a care home floor for more than 25 hours while waiting for an ambulance.Elizabeth Davies, who had injured herself in a fall, was eventually taken to Ysbyty Gwynedd, Bangor, where she then faced a further 12-hour wait before being admitted to a ward.
The Welsh Ambulance Service has apologised for what happened, saying winter pressures, a surge in demand and staff sickness levels have led to long wait times.
Care home staff heard a bump around 11.45am on Saturday and found Elizabeth, who has been a resident in a care home in Llanbedrog, Llŷn Peninsula, for over 17 years, laying on the floor.
“They called for an ambulance but were advised an ambulance wouldn’t be available for six to eight hours as they were so busy,” said Ian Davies, Elizabeth's son.
“They said my mother would be a priority because of her age..."
Ian said that care home staff did an "excellent" job to try to make Elizabeth as comfortable as possible on the wooden floor.
They propped a pillow under her head and put a small heater on to keep her warm. As Elizabeth was unable to go to the toilet, they had to apply an absorbant pad so she could urinate. It’s understood the care home made a total of nine calls: a tenth was made by Ian and Susan, Elizabeth's daughter-in-law.“We had to leave at midnight as we had to be up at 5.30am to go to work,” said Susan. “My mother-in-law usually goes to bed at 6.30pm-7pm but she couldn’t and she was getting extremely tired.”
Care home staff stayed with Elizabeth throughout the night. They were told each time they called for an update that she was a "priority" and an ambulance would come as soon as possible.An ambulance finally arrived at around 1.15pm on Sunday, some 25 hours and 30 minutes after Elizabeth fell, and took her to Ysbyty Gwynedd.“I don’t blame the ambulance staff because they are told what jobs to do and my mother wasn’t on the list,” said Ian. “But I was very upset by what happened, it was unacceptable.“The whole of the NHS is struggling at the moment and one of the biggest problems is the shortage of carers. They aren’t paid enough and no one wants to do the job.”
Stephen Sheldon, service manager for the Welsh Ambulance Service (WAS) in North Wales, extended his apologies to Mrs Davies for her long wait. He has invited the family to contact the service directly to raise their concerns.He said: “Winter pressures coupled with a surge in demand, staff sickness levels and the wider system pressures across NHS Wales has inhibited our ability to respond. Extensive hospital handover delays are well documented and has led to some very long waits for patients..."
“We are working with partners across Wales to mitigate the pressures as best we can. The public can help us by only calling 999 in a serious or life-threatening emergency so that our resources are available for those who need us most.”The Welsh Ambulance Service has been urging the public to plan ahead as industrial action hits the service in the coming days. Paramedics and other WAS employees are walking out on December 20, 21 and 28.
Given that the walk-out will put additional pressure on the ambulance service, Mr Sheldon advised that patients should ensure they have the medication they need, and explore “other means of transport” if they need urgent medical care or have to visit hospital.