A PENSIONER who split his head open after collapsing in the street lay bleeding for over an hour before an ambulance turned up to take him to hospital.
Retired nurse Jean Welsh was one of the first on the scene after spotting the injured OAP as she drove along Catcote Road, Hartlepool, and she was quickly joined by a police officer.
But she was left stunned when the ambulance failed to turn up and, after two more calls from her and a further three requests for help from the policeman, a Red Cross ambulance finally arrived an hour and 10 minutes after the initial call.
Jean, 63, who lives in Spalding Road in the Fens area, said: “I think it’s an absolute disgrace.
“There was blood everywhere, it was quite a bad cut on the back of the gentleman’s head.
“He was dazed and confused, and he was bleeding. I explained that when I made my first call for an ambulance, so it was urgent in my opinion.”
Jean, a former district nurse, put the man in the recovery position and was given towels from the nearby Goldmine pub to try and stem the bleeding.
She added: “There was a young lad on a bike who stopped, he saw the man collapse and was there from the start.
“I was driving past so I pulled over and tried to take control of it really and do whatever I could to help.
“The police were there as well and they were as frustrated as I was at the time it took for an ambulance to get there.
“Because it was a head injury, I didn’t know if he had fractured his skull or anything so I didn’t want to move him.
“All we could do was to try and make him comfortable until the ambulance turned up, but to have a man of that age lying bleeding in the street for that long is appalling.
“I understand the difficulties with lack of ambulances and they can’t be everywhere at once, but if an 86-year-old man lying bleeding from a head injury isn’t urgent then I don’t know what is.
“I rang three times, and one of the policemen also called three times from his phone before one finally arrived.”
The pensioner was taken to the University Hospital of North Tees for treatment and is now understood to be recovering from his ordeal at home.
A spokeswoman for the North East Ambulance Service said: “On the day in question, the NEAS had declared a clinical escalation due to the volume of 999 calls across the North East.
“At times such as this, patients who are not in danger may face a delay in an ambulance becoming available.
“At 13:57 we received a call from a police officer who had found a man on Catcote Road who had suffered a cut to the head.
“This was triaged as a Green call, meaning non-life threatening.
“Due to other high priority cases such as cardiac arrests and serious trauma, we were unable to attend the Catcote Road patient until 15:07 – one hour and ten minutes after the original call.
“There is no national target response time for Green calls, though we do set our own personal target of one hour.
“On this occasion we missed that target by ten minutes.”
A Cleveland Police spokeswoman said: “Officers were flagged down by a member of the public who had come across a man with a head injury on Catcote Road. Officers stayed with the man until the ambulance arrived and we wish him a speedy recovery.”
Ambulance delays in Hartlepool and East Durham have come under the spotlight in recent months, most notably following the death of town pensioner William Gouldburn.
An inquest heard a 999 delay played a key role in him dying in his home after a fall.