'You just feel helpless' - man left on floor for 13 hours during ambulance wait

  • Matt Cokely talks to Kylie Pentelow about his father's ambulance wait

An 84-year-old man from Bath with Parkinson's and dementia was left lying on his kitchen floor for more than 13 hours with a broken hip as he waited for an ambulance to arrive.

Matt Cokely's father fell at home at around 6pm on Sunday (December 5) - but an ambulance did not arrive until 7am the next day.

Mr Cokely says he felt “helpless” after being put on hold by 999 call operators. His father previously worked in the ambulance service for 40 years and says the wait times have got "progressively worse".

It comes as University Hospitals Bristol & Weston (UHBW) Foundation Trust - which runs Bristol Royal Infirmary (BRI) and Weston General Hospitals - had hundreds of patients who did arrive by ambulance then experience waits of an hour or more.

Figures released today (December 9) show the trust had 353 patients experience a wait of more than 60 minutes. Even once patients are seen by hospital staff, many are then experiencing so-called "trolley waits" - the time between the decision to admit someone to hospital and their actual admission. 

In recent months, South Western Ambulance Service has recorded some of the longest trolley waits in the country. Credit: ITV West Country

UHBW was the second-worst in the country for trolley waits, which are measured from the point of when a decision is made to admit a patient to them actually being admitted for treatment.

At the Bristol Royal Infirmary and Weston General Hospital, 706 people had trolley waits of more than 12 hours in the week leading up to December 5.

In that same period, Gloucestershire Hospitals Trust saw 448 patients waiting for more than 12 hours - a rise from 53 the previous week.

At Southmead Hospital in Bristol, it rose from 29 people to 59.

South Western Ambulance Service says it is experiencing the longest period of sustained pressure in its history. In recent months, it has recorded some of the longest trolley waits in the country.

In response to the latest figures Chief Operating Officer of Gloucestershire Hospitals, Qadar Zada, said: “We have reason to believe that this increase relates, in part, to data quality issues following the upgrade of an IT system.

"That said, NHS teams across Gloucestershire continue to experience considerable pressures during a highly challenging period, which has been reflected across the country over the last few weeks."

Gloucester Royal Hospital Credit: ITV West Country

Mr Cokely stressed when his father was eventually seen by paramedics and hospital staff, he received excellent care.

But he said the wait left him feeling "pretty helpless".

Speaking to ITV News, he said: "One of the things I was most surprised at was after an initial contact with the operator to ask which service I required, I was put on hold on 999 for I think it was in excess of three and a half minutes.

"When you're there with a patient you just feel helpless, you feel like you can't dial in, there's nothing you can do, it's simply a waiting game.

"Certainly when you get to 13 hours, it's unacceptable to see a loved-one, a parent, someone within your family, lying on the floor in obvious pain and discomfort."

In a complaint written to the South Western Ambulance service, Matt wrote: "I find it difficult to believe that in the triage system, an 84-year-old man with Parkinson's/dementia and a heart condition lying on a kitchen floor with a suspected fracture is NOT a priority call and that it was acceptable to leave him for over 13 hours before attending.

"Your operators were informed of his condition on each call."

In a statement released to ITV News in response to ambulance handover delays and trolley waits, Dr Emma Redfern from the BRI said patient safety is the trust's priority.

She said: "Our ability to admit patients in a timely way is also being impacted by staffing challenges, the number of Covid-19 patients needing admission, and infection control guidance which means we have separate wards for Covid and non-Covid patients to maintain safety but this reduces the flexible use of our beds."

Bristol Royal Infirmary Credit: ITV West Country

Hospitals having been calling on family and friends to help by taking in friends and relatives when they are ready to be discharged, where possible.

South Western Ambulance Service said it will be liaising directly with Matt Cokely.

But in a statement, it apologised to people facing longer waits than they would expect.

"We are doing our very best, alongside our NHS partners, to find a system wide solution and we would also encourage people across the South West to help us by only dialling 999 in a life threatening emergency so we can prioritise those who are most seriously injured and ill," a spokesperson said.