Injured woman, 90, forced to wait 40 hours for ambulance then kept in vehicle overnight

The pensioner suffered a suspected hip fracture but was left waiting days for treatment as the NHS crisis continues

Thomas Kingsley
Thursday 18 August 2022 11:35 BST
90-year-old woman forced to wait 40-hours for ambulance after fall

A 90-year-old woman was forced to wait 40 hours for an ambulance, only to be stuck in the vehicle outside of A&E for the night waiting for an available bed.

Steven Syms from St Austwell in Cornwall said the NHS system is “totally broken” as he explained his mother’s distressing ordeal waiting for emergency services following a fall.

Mr Syms said he called 999 for his mother Daphne on Sunday evening but paramedics did not arrive until Tuesday afternoon.

She then had to wait in an ambulance overnight outside of the hospital as there was a queue to enter the A&E department. She was later diagnosed with a suspected hip fracture and would need an operation.

Have you or a loved one faced similar long waits? If so email

“We’re literally heartbroken to see a 90-year-old woman in such distress just sat there waiting and it’s the not knowing how ill she was or whether she had broken anything,” Mr Syms told BBC Radio Cornwall on Wednesday.

“She’s still in the ambulance now,” Mr Syms said to the presenter’s shock.

Mr Syms said it also took nine minutes for his 999 call to be answered and said his mother could have died if she were having a heart attack and had to wait that long.

“The system is totally broken,” Mr Syms said. “It’s not just about bed blocking. I’m really distressed because I can’t believe it.”

It comes after the family of an 87-year-old were forced to build a shelter as he waited 15 hours in the rain for an ambulance

“Paramedics themselves are absolutely incredible people. They need and want to carry on doing the job they’re trained for but at the moment they’re being abused, there is no other name for it. They’re being abused and used as part of a nursing section at Royal Cornwall Hospital.

“The system is not deteriorating, it’s totally broken. It needs to be urgently reviewed.”

It comes as other Cornwall residents spoke out about concerning A&E waits.

One woman from St Columb Road village shared photos of a shelter she built when her 87-year-old dad fell on Monday and was forced to wait 15 hours for an ambulance with seven broken ribs, two fractures to his pelvis and an arm wound.

A spokesman for the South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust said: “We are sorry and upset that we were unable to provide Mr Syms’s mother with the timely response and care that she needed. Our ambulance clinicians strive every day to give their best to patients.

“Health and social care are under enormous pressure. We are working with our partners in the NHS and social care in Cornwall, to do all we can to improve the service that patients receive.

“We thank Mr Syms for being so understanding of the circumstances that our people and other health staff are working under.”

The Independent this month revealed that “apocalyptic” A&E waits could be driving 1,000 patient deaths a month. Leaked NHS data showed waits were “worse than ever imagined.”

Almost 700,000 people have waited more than 12 hours in A&E in the first seven months of 2022, according to the data. The “hidden” monthly trolley waits, not published in national data, have more than doubled this year in comparison to 2019.

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