Scandalous 23-hour wait for ambulance before man dies

Whatever the circumstances were, this is absolutely scandalous. An 80-year-old man, who fell at home and hit his head, waited 23 hours for an ambulance to arrive. Regrettably, he died five days later.

Ambulance bosses are looking into reasons behind the unacceptable delay but, whatever they discover, there can be no excuse.


John Williams in the ambulance outside Swansea’s Morriston Hospital (Pic: His family, via BBC News).

The man was then forced to wait more than seven hours, in the ambulance outside the hospital, before being admitted.

John Williams fell at home in Gowerton, Swansea, a city in the UK, on Tuesday April 2. But the ambulance did not arrive until Wednesday. Unfortunately, he died on Sunday morning.

I have no idea what led to the fall, but this can only be a real concern for anyone for whom falls are always a risk. People like me. I have mobility and balance problems caused by multiple sclerosis, falls are a persistent danger.

Mr Williams’s son, Darren, told BBC News that the ambulance was called shortly after 8.30am on Tuesday, and the family had been expecting a response “within 40 minutes to an hour”.

However, despite ringing 999 (UK equivalent of 911 in the US) three further times on Tuesday, the ambulance did not arrive until 7.30am on Wednesday and took Mr Williams to Morriston Hospital, Swansea.

Contributed to father’s passing

His son said they were advised not to move his father while waiting for an ambulance and, because of both delays, he did not have any medication for 36 hours. This included some for his heart, and after his father died, Darren Williams said he was told his father’s heart “gave up”.

“I can’t help thinking that all this has contributed to my father’s passing,” he said.

He added that the ambulance crew, when they arrived, were “brilliant” and “just trying to do their job in a very difficult situation”.

A spokeswoman for Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board said Mr Williams’s condition began to deteriorate after he was admitted to hospital.

Claire Bevan, director of quality, safety and patient experience for the Welsh Ambulance Service, said: “We would like to extend our sincere condolences to Mr Williams’s family at this very sad and difficult time.

“We want to ensure a full investigation is carried out into the wait that Mr Williams experienced and we will be communicating with Mr Williams’s family.”

I am pleased that the ambulance service is investigating. The fact that this is already in the public domain can only be good. With the eyes of the world media watching, there should be no opportunity to brush this under the carpet.

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* * * * * is the personal website of Ian Franks, a freelance medical writer and editor for various health information sites. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

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Note: Health-related information available on 50shadesofsun website is for your general knowledge only. It is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. I am not a doctor and cannot and do not give you medical advice. You should seek prompt medical care for any specific health issues. Also, consult a doctor before starting a new diet or exercise programme. Any opinions expressed are purely my own unless otherwise stated.

Ambulance targets ditched for 90% of emergency calls

ambulance colours

If you have a target that you fail to achieve year after year, there is a simple answer. Just tear up the rules and start again.

It’s what is sometimes called ‘moving the goalposts’ – and there really is no better description.

Ambulances have target response times, not just where you live but almost everywhere. In Wales, UK, the target is to reach 65% of emergency incidents in eight minutes. But, after seven consecutive months of improving to 61.7% – so target was still missed – in August the success rate fell to 58.8%. The September figure is not yet available.

So, now a new system for dealing with emergency 999 calls for ambulances in Wales has come into force and response time targets will be scrapped for all but life-threatening cases during a one-year trial.

Calls will now be graded and it is estimated only 10% of the 420,000 ambulance emergencies a year will be coded “red” for the most critical.

Welsh Ambulance Service chief executive Tracy Myhill tried to put some spin on the slackening of the targets by saying that the new system was based on clinical evidence and put the sickest patients first.

Under the new system, emergency telephone operators will assess how serious each incident is and despatch ambulances in the order of severity and according to predetermined classifications which are colour-coded like traffic lights.

Life-threatening emergencies are the top priority, coloured red – and it is only this group, the estimated 10%, to which the eight minute response time target still applies.

In the United States there are no official Federal or State standards for response times but they often do appear in contracts between communities and Emergency Medical Service providers.

This has led to considerable variations between standards in one community and another. New York City, for example, has a 10-minute response requirement on emergency calls, while other places have response time standards of up to 15 minutes.

It seems to be generally accepted within the emergency services field that an ‘ideal’ response time would be within eight minutes for 90% of calls but this objective is rarely achieved and current thinking questions whether or not that standard has ever been valid’.

As call volumes increase and resources and funding fails to keep pace with the growing demand, even large ambulance services find that they have difficulty in meeting the standards. So Wales is definitely not alone.

Whether it is right to change the rules and take 90% of emergency calls outside any response time target, however, is open to question.

I suppose that we will just have to wait and see how the new system works – or doesn’t.