Family hits out at nine-hour ambulance wait after 75-year-old had suspected stroke in Cornwall

Arnold Pearce, 75, with his wife Susan Credit: BPM Media

A former NHS worker says the "system has completely crashed" after her dad waited more than nine hours for an ambulance when her dad suffered a suspected stroke.

Arnold Pearce, 75, was showing all the signs of a stroke when his wife Susan Pearce called 999.

It took nine and a half hours for the ambulance to arrive.

The ambulance service says it has been under sustained pressure for many months, meaning some patients are having to wait longer than they would expect.

Mr Pearce's daughter, Katrina Clemes, says she fears lives are being put at risk by lengthy delays.

"We rang at around 3pm, they put it through as a 999 call and so you expect something quick. But then we wait and we wait.

"A few hours went by and my mum called 999 again to ask what had happened. Dad had gone into a deep sleep, so we couldn’t really tell them if his condition had improved or gotten worse."

Mr Pearce is diabetic and has dementia which means he requires constant care. The family had been told not to give him any food while they waited for the ambulance, but after four hours they began to worry about his blood sugar levels.

The family then made another 999 call at around 6.30pm and an ambulance arrived just after midnight - nine and a half hours after the first call.

"The crew were great," Katrina said. "But the system has completely crashed.

"We were told on Saturday night that there were 30 ambulances waiting outside Treliske while my dad had this mini-stroke.

“By the time the crew arrived he had improved a bit, and they advised us that he’s better off in a warm bed than inevitably waiting in a cold ambulance outside Royal Cornwall Hospital.

"We just know that this all happened because of the lack of resources.”

Mrs Clemes said she does not blame the call handlers, paramedics, doctors or anyone else who works on the NHS front line.

But as a former GP practice manager, she said the scale of the problem now would have been unheard of in her time.

She added: "The system in Cornwall is broken. People are going to die.

"I can see where the fault lies - they closed all the cottage hospitals, there’s no beds, there’s no GP beds for people to go into respite, and there’s huge amounts of bed blocking because social care is also broken.

"We had this before, we rang an ambulance when my dad fell in the night. You just can’t expect a 75-year-old man with dementia to just lie on the floor for 12 hours, as he did.

"And when he had his stroke - because of his condition he could have gotten worse quickly for all we knew. It should have been an emergency, it’s disgusting."

A spokesperson for South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust said: "The whole health and social care system has been under sustained pressure for many months now, this means that some 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 at emergency departments.  

"We are working with our partners to ensure our ambulance clinicians can get back out on the road as quickly as possible, to respond to other 999 calls within the community."