Man with chest pain waited 15 hours in the back of an ambulance outside Royal Cornwall Hospital

Patient Kevin Mingo was struggling to breathe as he waited. Credit: ITV

A Cornwall man struggling to breathe with chest pains says he was forced to wait more than two hours for an ambulance - before spending 15 hours waiting outside a hospital.

Kevin Mingo waited in the back of the ambulance it its crew outside the Royal Cornwall Hospital before eventually being admitted.

Mr Mingo said paramedics described themselves as babysitters as he waited for the hospital to take him in.

Ambulance waiting times at the Royal Cornwall Hospital are an increasing concern, with the hospital recently recording the worst ambulance wait times in the country.

The hospital topped the list for the proportion of arrivals delayed by more than an hour, recoding a total of 41%.

In May 2022, South Western Ambulance Service lost 7,962 hours to handover delays at the hospital, compared to 1,088 hours in May 2021.

Ambulances outside of the Royal Cornwall Hospital on 4 July, 2022. Credit: ITV News West Country

Mr Mingo said he was at work one morning when he began having chest pains.

He says he waited two-and-a-half hours before an ambulance reached him, but then had to wait around 15 hours in an ambulance as there was no space for him in the Truro hospital.

The St Austell resident said: "I was told on the phone at the time they were busy trying to get ambulance out to us as quick as they could. Basically the situation is at the moment hospitals holding them [ambulances] up, [they] can't get patients out quick enough. luckily enough the chap with me was a first aider. We had two plumbers there and one went off and got a defib.

"Eventually I was taken to hospital. Basically I waited fifteen hours in an ambulance. [It was] a day shift ambulance but it carried on that long they had to put me into a night shift one and do a transfer.

Kevin Mingo is still waiting for a procedure Credit: ITV

"[It was] frustrating because the nurses were coming out tending to me in the ambulance taking bloods, doctors coming out asking questions.

"Eventually [they] got me in for an assessment into majors, I was in there about three quarters of an hour then sent back to the ambulance until some time the following morning where I was taken into the majors ward and reassessed."

He added: "It wasn't just frustrating for me. The ambulance crew - they were saying it's not their job. At the present moment they said - 'don't take it the wrong way - we are babysitting because there's no beds'."

Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro (Treliske) is the biggest hospital in Cornwall providing emergency and specialist healthcare. Credit: PA Images

Mr Mingo said he had not realised how bad the situation was at the hospital, but praised staff for their efforts.

"It did surprise me, I know they are under a bit of strain but I didn't realise they were under that much strain.

"All the frontline workers, all the nurses and that they were just doing their jobs, you couldn't fault them one bit."

Mario Dunn, the chief executive of Healthwatch Cornwall described the situation as 'dire'.

Mario Dunn Credit: ITV

He said: "Ambulance waits in Cornwall are extremely long on average and handover times from ambulances to the emergency department are amongst the worst in the country.

"It's a really bad situation and it needs to improve.

"Royal Cornwall Hospital (RCH) has specific circumstances - its location, the fact there isn't another large hospital in the area, the lack of staff, the demand from the public - there is a whole host of reasons why there are big delays.

"There is not a single solution - there are a number of solutions - the NHS and the social care system has to link up more closely. At any one time there are 100-150 people in the Royal Cornwall Hospital (RCH) waiting to be discharged but they've got nowhere to go."

He added that the public have to do their bit as well by only calling 999 if it's an absolute emergency and if not, to dial 111.

  • Steve Williamson, Royal Cornwall Hospital NHS Trust chief apologises over the incident:

A spokesperson for the South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) 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.

“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.”

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