April 18 2014 Latest news:
by Lizzie Dearden
Thursday, December 12, 2013
Ill and injured people are waiting up to eight hours for an ambulance in Redbridge as a perfect storm of increasing demand and confusion stretches paramedics to their limits.
It is one of the slowest boroughs in London for response times and patients have seen shocking delays in recent months.
In May, an ambulance was sent out after more than eight hours to a person feeling ill in the street.
The patient did not answer their phone to paramedics and by the time the ambulance arrived, the person had disappeared.
Even life-threatening calls had waits of more than two hours in August and September.
In August, paramedics were called to help a drunk person who was at first thought to be in no danger. When their condition got worse after waiting for two hours, an ambulance arrived in less than five minutes.
Paramedic Richard Fitzgibbons, who does not work in Redbridge, said delays are frustrating for 999 staff and leave ill people and their relatives distressed.
He added: “The perception is that if you call 999, you’ll get an ambulance in 10 minutes, but there’s a triage system.
“Even if it’s not life-threatening, if it’s your relative or friend you want an ambulance there now. People get very anxious and upset.”
Mr Fitzgibbons said phone operators have set questions and are not medically trained, and relatives can sometimes exaggerate or understate symptoms.
He added: “It’s quite stressful for staff turning up to jobs hours after people call for help. Either no one’s been or there’s a single responder waiting for back-up.
“As paramedics, we go out to help people and get them to a hospital and we want to do it fast.”
The London Ambulance Service’s assistant director of operations, Paul Gates, said there has been a “significant” increase in demand in Redbridge, especially for serious calls.
He said: “We urge people with less serious illnesses and minor injuries to consider other healthcare providers in the community, for example your local pharmacy, walk-in centre, or calling 111.”