A RUGBY player lay in agony with a neck injury for almost two hours waiting for an ambulance.
Peterlee Pumas forward Luke Leyland was diagnosed with a dislocated vertebrae in his neck after being hurt in a four-man scrum five minutes into the second half of a National Conference League match against Coventry Bears.
The incident happened at Peterlee’s Helford Road playing fields around 3.20pm on Saturday.
But an ambulance did not arrive until 5.16pm, with ambulance chiefs saying more “serious” patients took priority.
Pumas bosses slammed the wait time as “crazy” and say they will be writing to the North East Ambulance Service (NEAS).
Luke, 26, originally from Derby and studying to be a radiographer at Teesside University, in Middlesbrough, where he is living, was put on a spinal board provided by a Peterlee fire crew that had been sent to a false alarm at nearby Helford Road Pavilion.
But shortly afterwards the ambulance arrived.
He was taken to the University Hospital of North Tees, in Stockton, and diagnosed with a dislocated vertebrae,
He was sent home on Saturday night with a neck collar and told to rest.
Luke said: “I think the wait time is disgraceful.
“It wasn’t a warm day and it was quite wet and I was in quite an awkward position.
“The Bears’ student physios stayed with me and held my head.
“For the first hour or so I was quite worried. The pain was agonising.
“But as time went on I got a bit colder and got a bit numb, so the pain started to die off.”
It is the latest in a string of North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) delays for patients in Hartlepool and East Durham – including tragic Hartlepool pensioner William Gouldburn who died after lying on his bathroom floor for two hours waiting for an ambulance despite seven desperate 999 calls by relatives.
Pumas treasurer Rob Laverick said: “I’m going to be writing a strongly-worded letter to the ambulance service – two hours for a guy to be laying on a field with a neck injury is ridiculous.
“It’s just crazy.”
He added: “It was just a freak collision where three or four guys went in and Luke crocked his neck.
“When you hit each other in rugby it’s the equivalent of a 50mph car crash.
“It was feared he may have broken something as he couldn’t feel his hands or feet.
“We chased the ambulance up after an hour and they said they were really busy.”
An ambulance service spokeswoman said the initial call was received at 3.26pm and added: “Ambulances are despatched on a priority basis, with potential life-threatening calls – known as reds – always coming first.
“During the triaging process, it was established that this was not a red emergency, and was therefore classed as a green. There is no target response time for green calls.
“At the time we were experiencing a high volume of red calls, which included cardiac arrests and serious trauma.
“A crew was about to arrive at the scene of the rugby incident at 4.22pm, but came across a three-vehicle road traffic accident en-route, with people trapped inside their vehicles.
“This incident was classified as red.
“NEAS currently has the best response times in England and Wales for reaching emergency patients in eight minutes or less, and receives 1,200 999 calls per day.”