Family build makeshift tent for 87-year-old during 15-hour ambulance wait in Cornwall

The makeshift shelter Karen made for her father David Credit: BBC Radio Cornwall

A woman has told how she was forced to build a makeshift shelter for her 87-year-old father as he lay in "severe pain" waiting for an ambulance for 15 hours. 

The woman, named only as Karen, said she was initially told paramedics would get to them within two hours after her father, David, fell in his garden. 

But hours later David was still on the floor of his garden in St Columb Road, in Cornwall, waiting for help. 

Unable to move him due to the extent of his injuries, David's family used a football goal, tarpaulin and umbrellas to shelter him. 

They also used cushions, blankets and throws in an attempt to comfort David. He was later found to have seven broken ribs, two pelvic fractures and a severe arm wound. 

South Western Ambulance Service has apologised for the delay and admitted it was "shocked" and "sorry" to hear the details of the case.

Reflecting on the experience, Karen wrote a moving message to BBC Radio Cornwall telling them: "We phoned the ambulance service at 7.33pm after dad had a fall outside the back door.

"The operator said they would be there within two hours. 

"We couldn't move him because he was so badly hurt. He also had a very bad open wound on his arm. 

"Along with the neighbours we got cushions, blankets and throws to make a nest around him. 

Neighbours helped construct the shelter Credit: BBC Radio Cornwall

"By midnight we made a makeshift tent out of goalposts, tarpaulin and umbrellas. 

"We stayed with him all night and I stayed lying on a cushion beside him. He was in severe pain."

She added that the paramedics that eventually arrived were "very cross" when they realised how long David had been waiting.

Karen warned: "You do not want to go to hospital in Cornwall now or ever". 

Her moving note to the radio station continued: "The rain came in the morning so Dad, who is 87, very frail and in severe pain, was lying on the ground for over 15 hours. 

"The ambulance crew were very cross and very apologetic but are helpless in the running of the service. 

"Something is going very, very wrong and it distresses me even thinking about it. He is now in hospital and has seven broken ribs, two pelvic fractures and a severe arm wound.

"We are distraught as you can imagine. We've had one update from a lovely doctor and that's it - no more information. 

"It's not the paramedics' fault, but this should not be happening."

Ambulances queued at a hospital in Cornwall

A spokesperson for the South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust said: “We are shocked and sorry for the experience this 87-year-old gentleman endured. Our ambulance clinicians strive every day to give their best to patients.

“Health and social care services are under enormous pressure. We are working with our partners in the NHS and social care in Cornwall to do all we can to improve the service that patients receive.”

South Western Ambulance Service has recently admitted it is struggling to get to patients within their target time.

Data revealed through the Freedom of Information Act earlier this year showed 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.

They have previously blamed handover delays at hospitals, which it is claimed is becoming a bigger problem due to bed-blocking.

This phrase refers to patients that are in hospital and are ready to be discharged or transferred to other care facilities but the support they require is not readily available.