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Woman waits six hours for ambulance after fall on her 100th birthday

Woman waits six hours for ambulance after fall on her 100th birthday

Irene Silsby describes terrible pain after fracturing pelvis at Rutland care home and waiting to go to hospital
A woman has described how she spent more than six hours of her 100th birthday waiting in agony for an ambulance after slipping and fracturing her pelvis while getting ready for a family lunch.

Irene Silsby was due to be picked up by her niece, Lynne Taylor, for a celebration to mark her centenary on 9 April. But she fell in the windowless bathroom of her care home in Greetham, Rutland, and staff called an ambulance at 9am after she managed to summon help.

“All I remember is I was in terrible pain,” said Silsby from her hospital bed on Saturday. When asked of the ambulance delay, she said: “It’s disgusting. I don’t know how I stood it so long, the pain was so severe.”

Taylor expected to meet the ambulance as she arrived 45 minutes later. But when she reached the care home, the manager said it would be a 10-hour wait, she said.

What was to be her aunt’s first trip outside the care home in more than five months turned into her lying on a cold floor surrounded by pillows and blankets to keep her warm and quell some of the discomfort.

Taylor, 60, recalled her aunt saying: “They’re not coming to me because they know I’m 100 and I’m not really worth it any more.”

Taylor said she had never felt so scared, frustrated and worried. After calling 999 and expressing her outrage, she was told that life-threatening conditions were being prioritised.

“I thought she was going to die,” she said. “I didn’t think that any frail, tiny, 100-year-old body could put up with that level of pain on the floor.”

To distract her aunt, Taylor read aloud the card Silsby had received from the Queen wishing her a happy 100th birthday. She said her aunt replied: “I bet she’s not lying on the floor waiting for an ambulance.”

The incident was upgraded to critical at about 3pm and the ambulance arrived an hour later, Taylor said.

As she was carried down the care home’s small staircase, Silsby struggled to use the administered gas and oxygen. To have morphine delivered she would have had to wait another 35 minutes for a paramedic.

“I know why they had to do it because they are under pressure,” Taylor said. “Her being in pain going down the stairs just almost had to be the case because they had to move on to the next person, and I don’t criticise them for this.”

When Taylor arrived at the hospital behind the ambulance, she was not permitted inside. In the following days Taylor was still in shock. “It was just such an awful thing to happen,” she said.

NHS leaders have said lives are being put at risk by ambulance wait times. Hospitals are under pressure as a result of unprecedented demand from patients after two years of the coronavirus pandemic, compounded by staff shortages in the NHS and social care as well as a fall in bed numbers in both settings.

Dr Katherine Henderson, the president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, told the Guardian this month that some 999 callers were experiencing waits of up to 22 hours.

In one instance, a man died after waiting four hours for an ambulance. In another, a man was left in pain for 14 hours, having phoned 999 multiple times.

Taylor, 60, believes a succession of governments have overseen a decline in the NHS, exacerbated by Covid and Brexit.

“There was not the funding when we went into Covid, the national health was not in a healthy, good way,” she said. “Before that we had Brexit where we lost lots of really valuable people that work for the NHS, and I think there’s been a pretty strategic working towards privatisation which has actually cost the service so much money that it has broken it.”

Richard Lyne, Divisional Director for Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland at East Midlands Ambulance Service, said every call is assessed to ensure people experiencing life-threatening emergencies, such as cardiac arrest, are seen first.

“We are deeply sorry that we were not able to arrive sooner, and we recognise the distress that this will have caused the patient,” said Lyne. “The patient remained in a place of safety while waiting for an ambulance, and clinical professionals from our ambulance control room were in contact with them.”
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