Paramedics have spoken of their frustration and fear that they are failing patients as the NHS struggles to cope with a surge in demand over the winter.
Sky News joined Glenn Radford and Natasha Brooks on a night shift with East Midlands ambulance to see the pressure being faced by those on the front line.
Their first call was to a patient with chest pain – a category two call that required a blue light response. They treated the man and took him to hospital.
Next, they were sent to help – year-old Ted Marshall who had fallen at home.
When they arrived, they were met by his wife June who had called 999. Mr Marshall was still on the floor where he’d fallen more than five hours earlier. They had been waiting for an ambulance since then.
For Mr Radford and Ms Brooks, it’s frustrating, but all too familiar, to find an elderly patient who has had to wait.
“The problem is with this scenario is there might well have been ambulances on their way to Ted and then they’ve been diverted to something else and this could have happened time and again,” Mr Radford said.
“Honestly, someone like Ted has paid into the system for their entire life and it’s only now in the twilight years that they need us and I feel like we’re failing them.”
Fortunately, Mr Marshall hadn’t broken any bones. He did want to go to hospital so once they’d made him comfortable Mr Radford and Ms Brooks were on to their next job.
As the night went on they were told ambulances were being diverted from Leicester Royal Infirmary. It meant any patients who needed hospital treatment could face a journey of more than 29 miles to Nottingham.
“Certain hospitals like Leicester, Lincoln I believe is similar, they won’t let the ambulance crews through the door until they ‘ ve got a space for the patient, “Mr Radford said.
” A couple of weeks back we had to wait about three and a half hours before we were allowed in the hospital with a patient, ” he added.
“It’s just you feel awful for the patient,” Ms Brooks said.
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“Yeah, and quite often you’ll be sat there and you’ll hear your radio go off and it’ll be control shouting out for a more severe job, you know a collapse, a cardiac arrest and there are no crews to send which it can be quite distressing really, “Mr Radford said.
They were called to a – year-old girl who was having difficulty breathing. When they arrived they discovered she has asthma, which can be life threatening.
In this case, however, she seemed well enough to not require hospital treatment and decided a GP appointment would be more appropriate.
“There’s just a bit of a wait, waiting for the out of hours doctors to call back,” Ms Brooks said.
“Of course it’s Christmas so there’s not as many appointments about for normal GPs. “
Later in the night, Mr Radford and Ms Brooks were called to a man who hit his head on a night out. He briefly lost consciousness so was classed as high priority.
“Ultimately we are an emergency service so we are here for the life-threatening injuries and illnesses,” Ms Brooks said.
“Sometimes if we’re dealing with somebody who’s maybe not known their limits then it means that people who are having heart attacks or strokes are waiting a bit longer and every minute that those kind of jobs are waiting it can cause damage to their brain, damage to their heart, and it can ultimately be a more fatal outcome. “
The pressure at this time of year is unrelenting. At the end of a busy shift there’s a sense that however many patients they were able to treat, there were always more who needed them.
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