Somerset GP 'terrified' after being put on hold during urgent 999 call

The GP said they are dreading the time a life-threatening situation arises like a heart attack, as ambulance response times worsen Credit: PA

A GP from Somerset says they have been left 'terrified' after being put on hold during a 999 call for a patient urgently needing an ambulance.

The GP, who wishes to remain anonymous, said they are 'living in fear' and dreading the time a life-threatening situation arises like a heart attack.

It comes as ambulance delays for such calls have doubled in the South West over the year, new figures have revealed.

They said: "The current situation with the ambulance service is terrifying. Last week I was put on hold after calling 999 for a patient needing urgent admission. There was nobody at the other end of the line to provide any advice while I was on hold for several minutes.

South Western Ambulance Service says its performance has 'not returned to pre-pandemic levels'. Credit: ITV News

"Eventually I decided that the patient would likely get to A&E faster by some other means and ended the call. I narrowly avoided taking him myself in the middle of a busy surgery when I finally managed to find someone else to take them.

"I now live in fear of a situation where immediate assistance is needed, for example, a cardiac arrest or a prolonged fit. We do see these cases from time to time.

"I worry even more for the general public in this situation who may have no basic medical knowledge of what to do.

"I am also aware that patients with less immediately life threatening issues are waiting at home for unacceptably long periods.

"I was called out of surgery to administer morphine to an elderly lady who had been on the floor all night with a possible shoulder fracture. We did not have the means to move her safely. It was heartbreaking."

Ambulance crews in the South West are struggling to get to the most seriously ill patients within their target time, according to new figures.

South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust. Credit: PA

Data revealed through the Freedom of Information Act shows that in 2021 more than 58,000 category one calls - which include heart attacks and heavy bleeding - were not responded to within seven minutes. This is double the number from the previous year.

One patient was left waiting over two and half hours for an ambulance to arrive for a life-threatening call in 2021, 21 times longer than the target.

A spokesperson for the South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust said: “The whole health and social care system has been under sustained pressure for many months now, meaning patients are having to wait longer for an ambulance than they would expect.

“Our performance has not returned to pre-pandemic levels, partly due to handover delays caused by capacity issues in hospitals, and in community and social care.

"This means it’s currently taking us too long to get an ambulance to patients. This is a risk which we recognise is unacceptable.

“We continue to work on a daily basis with our partners to ensure our crews can get back out on the road as quickly as possible, to respond to other 999 calls.”