MP Ian Liddell-Grainger has condemned the ‘atrocious’ levels of ambulance cover in West Somerset after an injured walker was left lying face down in agony for nearly two hours waiting for help to arrive.
The 65-year old holidaymaker had been walking in woods near Culvercliff, Minehead, when she fell last Friday afternoon, landing heavily on her face and badly injuring a shoulder.
Other walkers who had seen her fall went to her assistance, called 999 and asked for an ambulance and were told by ambulance control not to move her.
An hour and a half later no help had arrived and, with the woman’s condition worsening, those with her managed to contact a local RNLI official.
He went to the scene, assessed the woman’s injuries and with others managed to get her into a seated position. He then mobilised a coastguard rescue team and put in a further call to the ambulance service stressing that the woman’s extensive facial injuries required urgent attention.
Paramedics arrived on scene – with local coastguards – nearly two and a half hours after the first call was made. The woman was taken to Musgrove Park Hospital for treatment.
Mr Liddell-Grainger, MP for Bridgwater and West Somerset, said those who had stopped to help the woman were appalled by the delay.
He said: “They live in parts of the country where if you call for an ambulance one is generally with you within 10 to 15 minutes.
“They had no first aid training so simply did what they were instructed – left the casualty where she was. But this unfortunate woman was then stuck with her face into the ground and her head facing down a steep slope until someone who knew what to do arrived on scene.
“This is by no means the first such incident: my mailbox is filled with others – and every time a complaint is made the ambulance service comes up with the same, lame excuse: they are busy.
“I would argue that if that is the case then clearly additional resources are needed. It is an atrocious situation when a casualty in a place like Minehead – where with tourists the population is currently above 25,000 – has to wait so long for help to arrive.”
Meanwhile Mr Liddell-Grainger has been promised further consultations will be held locally over the future of Minehead hospital’s minor injuries unit, which health officials have closed at night for four months partly because of staffing problems.
He held a meeting with local NHS trust officials last Thursday and said he was only moderately reassured by their response to local anger over the closure.
“They point out that the MIU is the only one in Somerset that is open 24 hours – but don’t seem to understand that it needs to be because it is the only one in Somerset that is so far from a general hospital’s accident and emergency centre,” he said.
“They have assured me they are trying to recruit another staff member to enable night-time cover to be maintained. But when I am told anonymously that the reason the vacancy remains unfilled is because they are only prepared to take on a band 5 paramedic – at £6,000 a year less than a band 6 clinician – I am beginning to get an idea of why people are not interested in applying.”