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Taxi sent to GP practice after staff waited nine hours for ambulance


taxi

Exclusive An ambulance service sent a taxi to a GP practice in Bristol to collect a patient with a broken hip, after staff waited nine hours for an ambulance, Pulse has learned.

Two members of staff at the Three Shires Medical Practice were ‘tied up’ for nine hours supervising a patient with a fractured neck of the femur on 14 October, GP partner Dr Richard Greenway told Pulse.

The South Western ambulance service sent a taxi to collect the patient at 9pm as it said there was no ambulance available, he added.

Dr Greenway said the practice has ‘no facilities to look after sick patients with fractures’, and ‘tying up’ two members of staff for nine hours ‘means that other patients can’t get care’. 

In September 2021, the average ambulance response time in England for a category 2 call was 45 minutes 30 seconds – more than double the national standard target time of 18 minutes.

But Dr Greenway told Pulse he ‘can’t see how ambulances around here are currently anywhere near meeting 45-minute response times quoted’.

And the practice has dealt with other similar incidents over the past month, he added.

On 26 October, the practice rang for an ambulance for a patient suffering a heart attack, he said.

The patient had previously called 999 from home with chest pain, but did not receive an ambulance and was told at 7:30am to ring his GP. 

The patient was in hospital at 11am but at that point was beyond the window of treatment for his non-ST-elevation myocardial infarction (NSTEMI).

Last week, another patient with acute heart failure and atrial fibrillation (AF) had to be kept on oxygen in the surgery to keep his saturation above 90% for four hours before an ambulance arrived.

Dr Greenway said they were ‘minutes’ from running out of oxygen but that after a ‘further strong call’ to 999, an ambulance eventually came.

Dr Greenway added: ‘This is getting very dangerous. These [cases] are the tip of the iceberg, and not exceptional. What is going on out there? We are being told hospitals are not allowing ambulances to offload – but people will die if this doesn’t improve.’

The South Western Ambulance Service could not provide specific details on the incidents.

However, a spokesperson said: ‘Taxis are only used to transport patients in a very small minority of cases where it is clinically safe and appropriate to do so. This would not occur in emergency or life-threatening situations.

‘Taxis are only used in extreme circumstances when demand on ambulance resources is exceptional and any patient offered a taxi will have been clinically assessed as safe to travel.’ 

They added: ‘Like all ambulance trusts across the country, South Western Ambulance Service has also seen a significant increase in demand for its services on an annual basis.’

It comes as a GP at another Bristol practice waited five hours for an ambulance before taking a child patient to hospital herself, and a GP practice in Norfolk is looking to double the amount of oxygen it stores on-site due to ambulance delays.

It follows health secretary Sajid Javid saying last week that a lack of GP appointments is to blame for increased pressure on A&E departments.

In 2019, a major Pulse investigation revealed that ambulance trusts across the UK were invariably taking more than double the time on average to attend calls from GPs compared with those made by the public or other services.

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