A dying man lay on a street for nearly an hour before an ambulance crew arrived to transport him to hospital, a leaked report has revealed.
A paramedic who tended to the man, who had collapsed on a street in Belfast city centre, was so exasperated by the delay that he told the control room it was “beyond a joke”, according to a confidential NHS log.
The 70-year-old man fell to the ground outside Laganside Courts last November and the paramedic was with him within six minutes, but despite the man being just a four minute drive away from the regional trauma centre at the Royal Victoria Hospital, none came for 52 minutes.
The revelation comes amid heightened concerns over 999 response times, especially in rural areas and it was confirmed that the pensioner later died.
The official log of the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) shows that two ambulances were available or ‘clear’ at nearby stations.
The leaked log shows that while the paramedic was there quickly, he had been unable to transport him to hospital as he had been driving a rapid response vehicle, which is a medically equipped car.
Transcipts of telephone calls showed that the paramedic made three attempts to summon urgent ambulance assistance as the pensioner’s condition deteroriated before his eyes, to the point his heart stopped.
The log shows that following his third frantic call, the paramedic told the control room that he had been there waiting for 25 minutes and that the situation was “beyond a joke”.
The log shows: “(The paramedic) range for ETA of emergency ambulance. He was advised of it showing four minutes. He said this is the third time he has asked for the crew in the past 15 minutes but kept being told four minutes and said this was beyond a joke. He then asked where the crew was.”
The log continues that it was unable to contact the crew and confirms that the crew finally arrived 52 minutes after the initial 999 call.
An NIAS employee one-hour delays for ambulance “back-up” were becoming “much more common”.
The whistleblower told the Irish News: “When the ambulance service tells the public of improving response times, this case is an example of the story behind that response time.”
The NIAS has confirmed it will “examine the details of this call to determine if the ambulance response was appropriate”.