The family of a Hartlepool woman have lodged an official complaint after she waited five hours for an ambulance – only to be taken by car to hospital.
An ambulance was requested by medics at the One Life Hartlepool health centre for Brenda Sowerby, aged 55, who has numerous health problems and was in hospital just before Christmas with a suspected heart attack.
Brenda was taken to the walk-in GP service in Park Road by sister Pamela Fisher after she felt unwell and had swollen legs and feet.
After five hours they claim they were told an ambulance was still not available.
Mrs Fisher drove her 12 miles to the University Hospital of North Tees, in Stockton, where Brenda was admitted.
The North East Ambulance Service has apologised for the delay on Saturday, January 2, but have highlighted Brenda’s condition was not life-threatening and the ambulance service kept in contact with the family throughout.
She should have been with paramedics in an ambulanceAda Sowerby
An investigation is now under way after Mrs Fisher and Brenda’s mother Ada Sowerby complained about the wait.
Mrs Sowerby, 78, who has previously campaigned for the return of Accident and Emergency services at Hartlepool hospital, said: “Brenda saw a doctor quickly at the One Life, she was prioritised and we have no complaints there.
“She was seen by a doctor, who asked for an ambulance which was needed at midday. At four o’clock Pamela rang to say they were still there.
“At five o’clock she said ‘they have just told me I have to take her home or take her to North Tees myself because there is no ambulance available’.
“Brenda sat in a wheelchair for five hours and my daughter had to take her all the way to North Tees.
“She should have been with paramedics in an ambulance. Why wasn’t she prioritised?”
Brenda, who is diabetic and partially blind and in 2014 suffered kidney failure, was later transferred onto a cardiac ward, where she remained for all of last week.
Head of Emergency Care at North East Ambulance Service, Douglas McDougall, said: “We are currently investigating this complaint and will share the results with the patient.
“A booking for a non-paramedic-led ambulance was made for this patient through our GP urgent booking service.
“GPs make bookings for urgent transport from North East Ambulance Service based on their own assessment of a patient.
“In the event that the service is delayed we keep in contact with the GP to ensure that a patient does not deteriorate and need an emergency ambulance instead.
“This is a particularly busy period for North East Ambulance Service but nevertheless, we apologise for the delay experienced by the family.”
The service experienced a particularly busy New Year answering more than 1,350 calls and attended 620 incidents between 6pm on New Year’s Eve and 6am on New Year’s Day.
And despite appeals to the public to use the service wisely, 999 operators still answered inappropriate calls from New Year revellers.