A Cheltenham doctor has criticised the Government's "underfunding" of the health service after an elderly man was left lying in a road for more than four hours having broken his hip.
Doctor Paul Crouchman helped care for the 69-year-old as he waited for an ambulance after falling in Strickland Road, Cheltenham, on December 29.
Dr Crouchman says he does not blame the ambulance service for the delay, which he said bordered on being “barbaric”, but said it was the fault of the Government.
In a letter to the Gloucestershire Echo, Dr Crouchman said he was called to the incident by one of his neighbours and it was clear the man’s significant injury meant he could not be moved.
He said police arrived to see if the man could be picked up but this was not possible and the officers were quickly called away, leaving the group with four traffic cones and space blankets.
He said: “The gentleman was lying in the road and we were left slowing traffic and directing them around him as he was partially obscured by cars.
“The response from neighbours and family was wonderful and a credit to all, but this gentleman was left for more than four hours in this position before the ambulance came.
“We did everything we could to keep him warm and comfortable, but this kind of delay borders on barbaric.”
Dr Crouchman, who is a GP at The Royal Well Surgery, said it was lucky it had not been raining or as bitterly cold as it had been two weeks before.
He added: “What this poor gentleman experienced is absolutely not the fault of the ambulance service, A&E, the hospitals, primary care or anyone working for the NHS or social care.
"It is a consequence of the systematic underfunding, and almost sabotage, of our wonderful NHS by this Government.
“We have been telling anyone who will listen that these sorts of incidents are becoming a reality and here we are, sharing this poor man’s experience.”
In response to Dr Crouchman's claims, a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said it is increasing NHS capacity using Nightingale beds and investing millions into NHS staffing and social care.
It comes after critical incidents were declared at more than half a dozen hospitals in the South West amid rising Covid patients and staff shortages caused by Omicron.
What the ambulance service has said
South Western Ambulance has recently recorded the worst response times in the country and says it has been experienced the highest ever level of sustained demand.
A spokesperson apologised for the delays many people are facing and said it is a priority of the service to reduce them.
“We’re sorry that some patients are having to wait longer for an ambulance as a result of health and social care being under severe pressure", they said.
“The most significant impact is the length of time it’s taking us to hand over many patients into busy hospitals, which is higher than we’ve ever seen before.
“It’s an absolute priority for us and for our NHS partners to reduce these delays, so crews can get back out on the road for other patients.
“Our people are working incredibly hard day and night to enable us to be there for our patients, while prioritising those who are most seriously injured and ill.
Government investing millions
A spokesperson from the Department of Health and Social Care said they are "incredibly grateful for the dedication and tireless work of NHS staff".
“We’re increasing NHS capacity by building onsite Nightingale hubs, as well as creating 2,500 virtual beds where people can be safely treated at home", they continued.
"NHS England and Improvement has given ambulance Trusts an extra £55million to boost staff numbers in control rooms and on the frontline.
“This is alongside the work we’re doing to recruit more staff, improve retention and invest in training - working closely with NHS England and putting in at least £500million to support the care workforce as part of the £5.4billion to reform social care.”
Gloucestershire Police said they attended the incident to ensure that traffic was under control and the man was moved safely.
A spokesperson from the force said: “Officers helped the man’s family to move him to a safer place before leaving when they stated that police attendance was no longer required.
“The man was being seen to by an off-duty GP whilst paramedics were on route.”