AMBULANCE bosses are to hear the story of a Uttoxeter couple who waited for more than two hours for emergency assistance. Deborah Cooper shared their terrifying ordeal at a meeting of Uttoxeter Town Council earlier this month, which was also attended by two directors from West Midlands Ambulance Service (WMAS).
Now Trust Secretary, Phil Higgins, has invited Deborah to give an account of her experience to the service’s Management Board at a meeting which was due to take place today (Wednesday).
Murray MacGregor, Communications Director and Mark Docherty, Director of Clinical Commissioning both attended the October Uttoxeter Town Council meeting.
Mark said: “The Board of Directors of WMAS are always keen to hear of the patient experience both when things go well, and most importantly, when things don’t go as well.
“When I heard the very moving commentary that Deborah gave at a recent meeting of Uttoxeter Town Council, I felt that colleagues would benefit from hearing it too.
“Mrs Cooper spoke so passionately about the care her husband received from WMAS and highlighted her concerns and the very difficult situation her family faced that night.
“I felt it highlighted the impact the current hospital delays have on patients and their families.
“Enabling Board members to hear from the patient or their loved ones direct ensures that there is accountability to the public we serve.”
WMAS closed a Community Ambulance Station in Uttoxeter in July. At around the same time, Deborah’s husband Graham, who has an on-going condition, fell ill in the early hours of the morning and needed urgent medical assistance.
Deborah said: “I’ve had to dial 999 before and I would get an immediate response, with the person staying on the phone for support until the paramedics arrived.
“When Graham fell ill, I dialled 999 and just got an automated message. That happened several times until I finally got through to someone. They told me an ambulance would be sent, but with no clue as to how long, so I thought they would send one immediately.
“They told me to open the curtains and turn lights on as it was round 3am, so it would be clear which house the ambulance was coming to. Graham was in the back room and luckily my daughter was there, as I was running back and forth to the front to check whether the ambulance had arrived for two hours.
“They had said to ring back if he was deteriorating, but he was all the time – he was gasping. I’ve done first aid many years ago, and I thought if he stopped breathing I’d just have to get him on the floor and do the best I could. Other than God, we had nobody.”
Graham was eventually taken to hospital where he was treated and later returned home. However, Deborah contacted Uttoxeter Town Council to raise her concerns and spoke at the council’s monthly meeting on October 12.
Mark and Murray from WMAS explained issues with bed blocking were causing long delays within A&E departments, which prevented hospitals from accepting patients and were leading to ambulances being forced to wait for several hours outside A&E before being able to hand over their patients (as reported in last week’s Echo).
Deborah added: “I was glad to be able to say what happened in front of everybody, especially the two men from WMAS.
“They seemed genuinely sorry about what happened and it put a different slant on everything for me because I could see the bigger picture.
“But that doesn’t alter the situation for Uttoxeter. We are basically still in a terrible mess as regards emergency cover. We have nothing here – we’re left in a very precarious position.
“The ambulances will now run from hubs in Stoke, Stafford and Lichfield, but those places have got hospitals. We’ve got absolutely nothing and we’re on the edge of everything, so we just get left.
“I can see where they are coming from and I do understand that actually, a lot of the problems that we are facing, not just here but everywhere, mean hospitals and local authorities need to be working together with the ambulance service to come to a solution.
“I just want to do everything I can to highlight what is happening. I feel honoured and surprised that WMAS came back to me and asked me to speak at the Board meeting.
“It does prove that what I said must’ve sunk in a bit and I’m thankful that they have listened. I’m not holding my breath for massive change, but if they keep listening to people and keep the lines of communication open, and genuinely try to see what can be done, that’s got to be a good thing.”
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