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‘I feel so let down’: long waits for ambulances in south-west England

More than four hours after an ambulance was called, Richard Carpenter, 71, who had had a suspected heart attack, began to despair. “Where are they?” he asked his wife, Jeanette. “I’m going to die.”

She tried to reassure her husband that the crew must surely be close. Perhaps they were struggling to find their rural Wiltshire home in the dark. “But I could see I was losing him,” she said. She gave her husband CPR and urged him: “Don’t leave me.” But by the time the paramedics arrived another hour or so later, it was too late.

Jeanette Carpenter, 70, a stoical and reasonable person, accepts it might have been impossible to save her husband. “But I think he would have had more of a chance if they had got here sooner,” she said.

It is the sort of sad story that is becoming all too common. Across England, but in particular in the south-west, ambulances are too often not getting to patients in a timely manner.

Before Covid, said one ambulance worker – who asked not to be named – he would do between six and 10 jobs in a shift. Now if the first person he is called to needs to go to hospital, he expects this will be his one job for the whole shift.

“At some hospitals we are waiting outside hospitals for 10, 11 or 12 hours,” he said. “There’s nothing more demoralising than hearing a general broadcast going out for a cardiac arrest or road accident and there’s no resources to send. It’s terrible to think someone’s loved one needs help and we can’t do anything because we’re stuck at a hospital.”

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Source: The Guardian, 10 April 2022


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