Seven-hour ambulance wait for broken hip ‘like an eternity’

Dave and Dawn Robinault. Dawn was forced to wait seven hours for an ambulance.ks171139-1 SUS-170711-173451008
Dave and Dawn Robinault. Dawn was forced to wait seven hours for an ambulance.ks171139-1 SUS-170711-173451008

An Aldwick woman’s seven-hour wait for an ambulance after breaking her hip ‘seemed like an eternity’, her husband has said.

Dave and Dawn Robinault, who live in Margaret Close, had spent the afternoon of Sunday, July 2, gardening.

Just after the retired couple came indoors Dave found Dawn, 65, a long-term multiple sclerosis sufferer, on the floor as her legs had gone from under her.

Correctly suspecting she had broken both her hip and the top of her leg, he immediately rang 999 just after 9pm but despite a number of conversations with call handlers an ambulance did not arrive until 3.53am, nearly seven hours later.

Dave, 69, who worked as a senior bank manager in Chichester, described how the ‘traumatic’ night ‘seemed like an eternity’: “I felt fairly helpless because I could not help her. The longer it went on the worse it got. Dawn was very distressed and in constant pain.”

He made her as comfortable as he could on the floor until paramedics arrived.

They gave her morphine and took Dawn to St Richard’s Hospital, where she had a hip replacement operation after two days. She was discharged a week later.

Months later she has returned to gardening, using a long handle for her tools.

Dave described the call handlers as ‘professional’ and praised both the paramedics and hospital staff.

He acknowledged the NHS was under tremendous pressure but felt South East Coast Ambulance Service was ‘not fit for purpose’.

He initially expected an ambulance crew to turn up within 30 minutes or an hour but called the seven-hour wait ‘unacceptable’.

Dave added: “I do not want anyone to go through what Dawn went through.”

The couple have lived in Aldwick since 1979 and recently celebrated their 45th wedding anniversary.

A spokesman for SECAmb said: “We are very sorry that Mr and Mrs Robinault experienced such a long wait for an ambulance when Mrs Robinault fell and broke her hip in July and we hope she is making a good recovery.

“We carried out an investigation into the incident and wrote to Mr and Mrs Robinault to offer our sincere apologies and to explain the factors that had contributed to the delay.

“However, we respect their decision to take their complaint to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman and we will co-operate fully with them should they approach us.”

Last month it was revealed that SECAmb missed its target on almost half of the most serious 999 calls for September.

The NHS trust, which covers Sussex, Surrey and Kent, which has been in special measures since May 2016, met the eight minute response time on just 50.8 per cent of red one calls in September, and 39.9 per cent of red two calls.

The national target is 75 per cent for red one calls, which are categorised as immediately life-threatening incidents.

The drop in performance is due to a higher rate of staff turnover, the need for staff to be abstracted for training, delays at hospitals, and a rise in the percentage of calls received being categorised as red one, according to the trust.