Two hour ambulance wait for 85-year-old couple in St Albans

Jean and Jack Smith

Jean and Jack Smith - Credit: Archant

An injured elderly man was left shaking and bleeding waiting for two hours in the freezing cold for an ambulance to hospital last month.

When Jack Smith tripped over on St Vincent Drive at about 2pm on January 18, his wife, Jean, saw his face was dripping blood and called an ambulance – she could not pick him up from the pavement herself.

Several people came over to help the two 85-year-olds, including a group of dustmen and residents of flats across the road.

The dustmen gave Jack a sideways bin to sit on while he waited, while another samaritan came with a cup of tea.

After a while in the cold, someone offered Jack her house to wait in – but since they thought paramedics were coming any minute, Jean wanted to stay where they could be seen.

Two hours after the original call, and after numerous checks on its progress, the operator asked if one of the off-duty dustmen would drive Jack to the minor injuries unit at St Albans City Hospital – he was not sure how much longer they would have to wait.

That is what they did, because by that point Jack was already “shaking and shivering” in the cold.

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Although he was left with a heavily bruised face Jack has now been for check-ups and will heal, but the couple’s son, Roger Smith, 58, thinks it was “disgraceful”.

He said: “My mother doesn’t want to make a fuss about it, but I was pretty angry to be honest.

“They asked, is he breathing? Yes. Is he bleeding? Yes. Where is he? He’s laying on the pavement. They had all that detail and I just thought it was disgraceful to leave him out there, or anyone.

“I don’t want to get the ambulance in trouble but someone has got to find out what has gone wrong here.”

Jean stressed that it was not the operator’s fault, it is “just the way things are now”.

She said: “They were very nice people on the phone but they kept saying they would send an ambulance as soon as possible.

“I sort of felt that if they had said in the first place that there a shortage of ambulances I would have got a taxi or something.

“He is pretty tough but I couldn’t let him walk, and it was just horrible waiting and not knowing if anything was coming.

“He could have got pneumonia.”

A spokesman for the East of England Ambulance Service said: “The incident was classed as a ‘green’ serious but not life-threatening based on the information provided by the caller, and at around 4pm a clinician in our control room spoke with a bystander on scene and arranged transportation for Mr Smith to hospital with them.”

He said that if Jack or his family had further questions they should contact the service directly.