Fury over 12-hour ambulance wait

A terminally-ill pensioner had to wait 12 hours for an ambulance to take him to King’s Lynn’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital, it has emerged.

And the son of 71-year-old Jim Swift has claimed that he was only treated as a priority case once he had threatened to report the matter to the care watchdog.

Ambulance trust officials have apologised for the length of the wait, but pointed out that they had been in regular contact with Mr Swift.

Mr Swift, who was diagnosed with terminal cancer earlier this year, was discharged from the hospital at the weekend having been admitted last Monday.

But, although his GP called for an ambulance to take him from his home in Emneth to the QEH and arranged a bed for him there at around noon that day, it was not until around midnight that paramedics finally arrived. The East of England Ambulance Service have accepted that the call should have been dealt with within a maximum of four hours.

Mr Swift’s son Nik said he had first called the doctor after being told that his father had become so weak he could not stand up.

He said he had told the GP: “I feel as though he’s starving to death.”

Although Nik said he accepted that paramedics had been in regular contact with his father, who had told them he was fine, during the wait, he said his own 30 years of experience working in care told him his father should have been admitted much earlier.

He said: “My dad is a proud man. He could be in sheer agony and he’d say he was alright. I know from people I’ve looked after they could be crawling around in agony and they’ll say they’re fine.”

Eventually, at around 11.30pm, Nik, who had travelled from Kent where he lives and works, threatened to report the case to the Care Quality Commission, as he felt his father’s treatment was unacceptable.

He added: “Within five minutes they called me back and said he was a priority. I felt disgusted that it took a threat to make him a priority.”

Nik said he had also raised concerns with the QEH that a blood test was not taken at the time his father was admitted.

An East of England Ambulance service spokesman said: “The Trust recognises that our response took too long and we apologise for the delay.

“We were in regular contact with the patient to check on his condition as our ambulances were experiencing long delays at hospitals and also had to be prioritised for the most life-threatening incidents. Patients are prioritised for most urgent clinical need.”

He added that Mr Swift’s GP had been happy to leave him at his home until paramedics arrived.

But Nik said he had been advised there were a lot of patients left in a similar position to his father.

He added: “There’s obviously something wrong. It needs a complete overhaul.”