A PARAMEDIC claims lives are being put ‘at risk’ in South Lakeland after a pensioner was left waiting in agony for nearly two hours with a broken hip.
Paul Carlisle, an emergency medical technician, said emerg- ency patients often faced long waits for ambulances after dialling 999.
In Staveley, 74-year-old fall victim Ken Dixon was wrapped in a duvet and comforted by bar staff outside his local pub while he waited 95 minutes for an ambulance.
Now the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Trust has said it will put in place a new system to improve waiting times for patients arriving by ambulance at the RLI.
Mr Carlisle, a Unison ambulance representative, said: “On the night in question there were 10 ambulances queued up at the RLI and all the crews from South Lakeland were waiting two-and-a-half hours so there were no ambulances in the district to deal with other 999 calls.
“Lives were at risk. If there had been a serious crash on the motorway it does not bear thinking about what might have happened.”
Ken Dixon, of Staveley, waited in the cold and dark swaddled in a duvet and coats until 12.45am after a fall outside the Eagle and Child pub.
Barman Nicky Smith, who called an ambulance at 11.10pm, said: “I carried him to a bench a couple of feet away from where he fell. He was in shock and severe pain.
“We got as many coats as we could and put them around him thinking that the ambulance would be a short time away.
“At midnight I got a duvet and wrapped it around him and one of the other bar staff cuddled him to keep him warm.
“We didn’t move him because we were advised not to. Everyone who was there was upset about it and we were worried that he could have died.”
Mr Dixon was taken to Furness General Hospital and it is believed he is still in hospital.
The Westmorland Gazette has learned of other incidents during the same weekend with a number of emergency cases waiting for ambulances.
Mr Carlisle said crews from South Lakeland were often diverted to jobs in north Lancashire.
He said: “The situation at the moment is dangerous and if the problem is not sorted soon then there will be more instances of this in the summer.”
Staveley councillor Stan Collins said he was ‘shocked’ that people had to wait so long to seek medical attention and added: “Although Mr Dixon did not have life-threatening injuries, he was left in a position in which his health could have seriously deteriorated.”
The North West Ambu-lance Service said it works closely with all hospitals to ‘ensure that turnaround times are kept to the absolute minimum’ but said there were periods of high demand which caused times to increase.
A spokesman said the trust ‘appreciated’ staff concerns but life-threatening incidents were given top priority and that the nearest ambulance was sent to all calls.
Tim Bennett, acting UHMBT chief executive, said delays at the RLI two weekends ago were caused by an outbreak of a norovirus coupled with a peak in demand for emergency services.
He accepted that patients sometimes had to wait ‘unacceptably long’ times to be seen in the emergency department at the RLI and added: “We have recognised that there is a need to improve patient experience and reduce waiting times in emergency care at the hospital.”
He said new procedures would see ‘appropriate’ patients admitted to the medical assessment unit or clinical decisions unit, not to the emergency department.
He said that the £1.5million extension at the RLI would also help to address the issues.