Ambulance service defends East Devon woman's seven hour wait for…

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South West Ambulance Service has defended itself against an East Devon woman’s angry complaint that she was left waiting seven hours for an ambulance.

Paramedics were called to the Honiton home of Lorraine Noton, 37, shortly before 8pm on Tuesday, January 3.

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A health care professional made the call after diagnosing her with suspected appendicitis, and Lorraine says her symptoms included crippling chest pains.

Non-urgent transport was summoned, with a response window of up to four hours.

Lorraine is furious that she had to wait with her sister until 3.30am until its arrival, before being taken to the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital’s Abbey Ward.

She says the length of the wait was “bang out of order” and was made to feel like a burden.

“It takes the biscuit,” said Lorraine, “The pain was really bad and I felt I was not being taken seriously and being judged.

“For personal reasons I declined getting a taxi that late at night. I suffer from mental health problems that leave me mostly housebound so an ambulance was the only way to get to hospital.

“When you are in a lot of pain it feels like longer.”

South West Ambulance Service Trust (SWAST) has defended the delay, saying they were dealing with 112 life threatening incidents in Devon in those seven hours.

A spokesperson said: “These type of non-urgent incidents have a four-hour response time as agreed with local commissioners.

“Despite repeated calls to the patient to arrange a taxi – an appropriate response for many non-urgent incidents – the patient could not be contacted on the telephone. The patient then called the ambulance service just before midnight and explained she couldn’t take a taxi.

“At approximately 1.45am an ambulance resource was allocated but this had to be diverted to a more urgent incident. An ambulance resource became available at 2.50am and the patient was taken to the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital.”

The SWAST spokesperson added: “We only have a finite number of resources available to respond to the ongoing rise in demand for our service and we must prioritise those patients in a life-threatening time-critical emergency situation.”

Facing rising public demand and expectations, a finite resource and the challenges of investment in the ambulance service, SWASFT is taking part in the national NHS ambulance response programme.

The programme aims to improve response times to critically ill patients and make sure the most appropriate response is provided for each patient first time.

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