Belfast Telegraph

Woman (91) has agonising five-hour wait on floor for ambulance after fall

Iris June Blemings waited five hours for an ambulance
Iris June Blemings waited five hours for an ambulance
Claire Williamson

By Claire Williamson

This is the shocking image of a 91-year-old woman lying in agony on the floor for five hours waiting for an ambulance.

Iris June Blemings fell on Monday night at her home in Finaghy.  She was found by her home help and an ambulance was called at 7.15pm - but it didn't arrive until after midnight.

Iris's granddaughter Amanda Crossthwaite was alerted that she had fallen by a phone call from her mum, asking her to go and meet her granny, who was being taken to the Royal Victoria Hospital.

Amanda, who lives in Bangor, headed straight to the hospital.

But when she got there she realised that her grandmother hadn't reached the hospital.

Amanda then made her way to Finaghy, where she was met with the harrowing sight of her granny on the floor.

In a bid to keep her calm and to try to distract her from the pain, she lay with her while they waited.

Amanda (31) says the family do not blame medical staff, but instead called on our politicians to look at the real-life examples of people suffering due to a lack of budget and resources.

She said: "It was about 9.30pm, she was just there on the floor between the doorway and the hall. I asked the home help about the ambulance. She said she had phoned back at around 8.30pm and they said they were really busy.

"I thought 'this is not okay', and at around 9.45pm I phoned and said: 'My granny is lying on the floor, she's been here for two-and-a-half hours'. The man was really apologetic.

"But it was just that feeling that we weren't given a time-scale and just told we would have to wait."

At around 10.30pm the elderly woman tried to sit up as she needed the toilet, but couldn't move more than a few inches off the floor without crying out in pain.

At this point Amanda became increasingly concerned as she noticed stroke-like-symptoms.

"The left-hand side around her mouth looked quite slack and I noticed her cheek was very swollen. I phoned the ambulance back again and this was almost 10.45pm," she explained.

Amanda was given a list of things to do to check the symptoms and the call was subsequently upgraded by the Ambulance Service.

The first responder arrived about half-an-hour later and immediately got to work.

Amanda said: "That was four hours in at 11.15pm, and he just shook his head."

He did all the necessary checks and put her on oxygen before calling the Ambulance Service again himself.

However, despite their ordeal the family have stressed that the care she received was "amazing". Iris had to undergo surgery as she had chipped part of her shoulder bone and it was dislocated.

Amanda added: "I certainly don't blame any of the people who were on duty. They didn't have the resources because there is no money to pay for them. There must be someone up there (at Stormont) able to do something about where they are allocating the funds.

"The NHS is really struggling and they need more money to solve these problems. Everybody there that evening was doing the best they could. But it was just really clear that they resources weren't there that they needed.

"The workers are under pressure and they are literally the only good thing about that whole experience - they were brilliant.

"Ambulances are meant to be for emergency care, and it was anything but feeling like an emergency.

"There needs to be someone in charge. Issues are happening and there is no one there dealing with them.

"I know there are important things and budgets are tight all-round, but healthcare is not something we can sacrifice in place of other things."

The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service said it received a call at 7.19pm on Monday following reports of a female falling at a residential address in Finaghy.

It said: "Based on the information received by the emergency call-taker, the call was classified as a category B response (serious, but not immediately life-threatening).

"A further call was received at 10.46pm where additional information provided about the patient's condition led to the call being upgraded to category A response (serious and immediately life-threatening)."

NIAS said it seeks to respond to every emergency call as quickly as possible with the most appropriate response.

It added that calls were always prioritised based on clinical need.

"The first available, closest resource, a rapid response vehicle paramedic, was allocated at 10.50pm and arrived at the scene at 11.08pm," it added.

"Following assessment, the paramedic requested an ambulance to transport the patient to hospital, which arrived at the address at 12.10am.

"Following initial assessment and treatment at the scene by paramedics, the patient was transported to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast for further treatment.

"NIAS would like to apologise for any discomfort and distress caused to the patient and her family during the wait for the arrival of an ambulance."

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