An elderly woman was forced to wait almost two hours for an ambulance after suffering a fall outside on Monday night.
Valerie Donno, 71, was left lying on a cold, concrete path for more than 90 minutes after falling and smacking her head on a lamppost in Castle Lane, Haverhill.
A witness, who said he dialled 999 at around 5.20pm, was advised not to move her and became increasingly concerned about her catching hyperthermia, despite being given a blanket.
She had already sustained a black eye, cuts to both her knees and had hurt her hand.
“We were worried sick,” said Goffrey Mason. “You don’t leave a 71-year-old on the floor for an hour and 45 minutes.
“She’d gone for a walk with a friend and said her feet were going too fast for her body – she had those walking poles people use – and as she’d gone down, she went to grab the lamppost but obviously didn’t make it and hit her head.”
Mr Mason said he called back twice to check why an ambulance was taking so long and was told the service was ‘extremely busy’.
He hoped they would send a paramedic to assess if Mrs Donno could be moved, but it was gone 7pm by the time an ambulance arrived from Cambridge to take her to Addenbrooke’s Hospital.
He said: “It was ridiculous. They said to phone back if she got any worse, but who am I to decide? Anything could have happened – she could have had an internal injury. We know she was in shock.
“When you phone 999 you expect to wait maybe five or 10 minutes at the most, not an hour and 45 minutes. I felt so sorry for her and just kept apologising.”
A spokesman for the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust said the incident was reported at 5.31pm and classed as ‘green’ – serious but not life-threatening, requiring an emergency response within 30 minutes. However, an ambulance was unable to arrive until 7.04pm.
“We would like to apologise to Mrs Donno for her ambulance wait and any further distress this may have caused,” he said.
“We have been open about how busy we are with 999 calls and that we’re seeing a rise in seriously ill patients – we have to reach the life-threatened patients as an absolute priority with the staff and volunteers available to do so and we received more than 130 calls as immediately life-threatening in Suffolk that day.”