Helpless’ dementia sufferer, 84, lay on floor for 13 hours waiting for ambulance

The elderly man, who previously worked for the ambulance service, broke his hip on Sunday after a fall at home and despite his family making multiple 999 calls, was unable to secure an ambulance for 13 hours

An elderly dementia sufferer was forced to lay on the floor for 13 hours as he waited on an ambulance, his family have said.

The 84-year-old’s son, Matt Cokely, has spoken out after his father broke his hip on Sunday after a fall at home.

He and his family made multiple 999 calls but were unable to get an ambulance to come any quicker.

Matt does not blame the NHS workers, but worries about whether the ambulance service has enough funding.

He told BristolLive : “This is crazy. We’re in a first world country and we have a broken ambulance service. It’s insane.”

A South Western Ambulance Service spokesperson said the current handover time from ambulances to emergency departments “is longer than we have ever seen before”.

Matt’s dad, who used to work in the ambulance service, waited for hours for one to arrive.

He had recently been in hospital following another fall and has Parkinson’s disease and dementia.

When he fell on Sunday at about 6pm, his wife contacted 111 and was then put through via 999 to South Western Ambulance Service.

She was told an ambulance was on its way, but that there could be a delay due to a very high volume of calls at that time.

But three hours later an ambulance had still not arrived and Matt rang 999 again.

After being asked if his dad was breathing, he was put on hold for about three minutes and asked not to call again for an update as they would be unable to provide one.

An ambulance finally arrived at 7am on Monday morning and took his dad to hospital.

He is now in the Royal United Hospital in Bath where he being treated for a fractured femur.

Both of Matt’s parents worked in the NHS and he does not believe emergency workers are at fault.

He said: “Nobody in that ambulance control centre wanted to leave my dad on the floor for 13 hours.

“That ambulance crew did not want to leave my dad on the floor for 13 hours.”

When emergency service responders arrived, he described their work as “brilliant” but is angry the health service is in its current state.

He said: “It is not okay. It’s really not okay to lie on your kitchen floor for 13 hours.”

The lengthy wait made him feel “helpless” and “powerless”, and made him worry about what could happen in a more serious emergency.

“It frightens me to see the time taken to respond to calls. This is crazy.

‘Whatever the cause is, it’s going to result in deaths, and that’s not being melodramatic.”

He said: “We need a sensible conversation which is – what the NHS costs, how it should be funded, what the projections are to fund it correctly for the future. We need that conversation.”

The Department of Health and Social Care said it had given ambulance trusts an extra £55 million to boost staff numbers.

A spokesperson added: “The NHS will continue to face pressures and the threat of a new variant as we head into winter, but we are backing healthcare services and staff so people get the care they need.

“We have brought in a range of measures to slow spread of Omicron across the country and have invested £5.4 billion into the NHS this winter, including £700 million to expand wards and surgery theatres and £478 million to help safely get patients out of hospital.

“Vaccines remain our best line of defence to boost protection– we urge anyone yet to receive a COVID-19 jab or who is eligible for a booster or flu vaccine to come forward.”

A South Western Ambulance Service spokesman said: “We are sorry, but we are unable to comment on individual cases, however, we will be liaising directly with the patient’s family.

“Our response times are directly affected by the time it takes us to handover patients into busy hospital emergency departments which is longer than we have ever seen before and we are sorry that this means people are waiting longer than we would expect for us to get to them.

“Our service has been under significant and sustained pressure for some time now.

“We are doing our very best, alongside our NHS partners, to find a system wide solution and we would also encourage people across the South West to help us by only dialling 999 in a life threatening emergency so we can prioritise those who are most seriously injured and ill.”