Elderly woman waits nine hours in the rain for an ambulance after fracturing hip in fall

Health chiefs have apologised after an elderly woman waited nearly nine hours for an ambulance when she fractured her hip in a fall outside her home.

Rita Tonks
Rita Tonks

Rita Tonks called out to neighbours for help after falling on her driveway in Telford on October 4.

But her son, Steve Tonks, says it is "disgraceful" that it took almost nine hours for an ambulance to arrive to take her to Princess Royal Hospital (PRH) in Telford.

He said his 87-year-old mother has also been waiting more than a year to have a knee replacement operation, which had exacerbated the problem.

Today he spoke of a 'broken healthcare system', with his mother yet to be given a date for her surgery after many routine operations were delayed due to the pandemic.

Mr Tonks, 63, of Shrewsbury, said she had fallen onto her hip after her right knee 'collapsed'.

"My brother called an ambulance at 1.15pm but it didn't arrive until 10pm," he said.

"She waited on the cold and wet driveway – it was pouring with rain. The ambulance service had advised not to move her.

"We obviously tried to keep her dry and warm, but are so disappointed and quite frankly angry at what happened. It's disgraceful."

He says his mother had her left knee replaced at PRH in September 2019, and had been due to have an operation on her right knee six months later.

But after the Covid outbreak, it was postponed.

"The government is saying elective surgery has commenced again but my mother is still waiting," he said. "It's heartbreaking to know that she may go to her grave in pain without having that operation.

"I feel the NHS should urgently step up to the challenges of getting the services operating back as normal instead of using Covid as the reason for no services."

His mother is now recovering at PRH after being given a partial hip replacement.

Mr Tonks raised the issues with Telford MP Lucy Allan, who says she too is "very concerned" about the county's waiting list backlogs.

She said: "Rita’s case is truly awful.

"My concern is, based on responses I have received from the trust, that senior management do not seem to understand the impact on patients of failing to restart orthopaedic surgery.

"Rita’s case was described as routine and I was told that she would be given a date in due course, but nothing would be scheduled in the near future.

"There are many excellent trusts performing well despite the enormous burden Covid has placed on the NHS and its exhausted staff.

"It is important that poorly performing trusts, such as those in special measures, do not hide behind Covid leaving patients like Rita to suffer. There needs to be open dialogue with patients, the board and local representatives about the challenges Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust faces, so we can all support the trust in achieving better outcomes for patients and have confidence in the management."

Rita Tonks has waited more than 18 months to have an operation on her left knee at the Princess Royal Hospital

West Midlands Ambulance Service has apologised for the delay and said staff are working tirelessly.

A spokesman said: “Local NHS services remain under severe pressure; hospital handover delays unfortunately mean patients waiting longer for an ambulance response.

“Paramedics in our control room spoke to the caller with the patient on several occasions to check whether her condition had changed.

“Less than half of our patients are taken to hospital, but we continue to work with all local NHS partners to reduce delays so crews can respond to the next incident as quickly as possible.”

The service said 68.4 per cent of ambulance handovers of patients at PRH had been delayed that day, and 91.7 per cent were delayed at Royal Shrewsbury Hospital.

SaTH, which runs both hospitals, says the high demand for urgent care, together with caring for Covid patients, had impacted other services.

Nigel Lee, chief operating officer at SaTH, said: “Our hospitals continue to be under extreme pressure, with very high levels of demand for urgent care and the ongoing impacts of Covid-19, and this is unfortunately effecting patients requiring other treatment, including some planned or elective surgery, for which we apologise.

“We are continuing to work with our health partners at the Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital to treat as many orthopaedic patients as possible, including those facing the longest waits, and we are also taking steps to increase bed capacity at RSH to support the restoration of more elective surgery as quickly as possible.”

Work begun this month on a new 32-bed modular ward at RSH which will be used by surgical teams for emergency patients, freeing up additional medical bed capacity in the main ward block.

Bosses say the Future Fit scheme, which will separate emergency and planned care in the county, will also help to address issues in the future.

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