At around 4pm last Friday my neighbour, a lovely woman in her fifties, had a fall.
In the hours that followed I found myself angry both for her and her family.
She’d tripped in her garden, on the concrete outside her back door, and lay there in agony. We weren’t to know at the time but she’d broken her hip.
We wanted to move her but couldn’t. The pain was so excruciating she couldn’t even extend her legs.
Her husband dialled 999 and – after rejecting advice to instead call a doctor – was told it would take FOUR HOURS for an ambulance to arrive.
He set out the urgency of the situation. She was lying on the cold concrete, in distress, unable to move. What had he been paying his National Insurance contributions for?
I called up myself and I perhaps need to apologise to the poor call handler who bore the brunt of my exasperation over that shocking wait time.
It wasn’t the handler’s fault. The London Ambulance Service are very obviously facing a thankless task.
So no, it wasn’t my finest hour but you’d have been the same had you been in my position.
Some kind-hearted builders working next door offered their services, turning up with a long piece of wooden board to lift her on to. She just couldn’t do it.
Even the slightest movement left her crying out in pain. Appalled at the wait time themselves, the builders also dialled 999, to no avail. Still we waited.
I ran into the nearby (undermanned) GP surgery. A doctor came but was equally powerless beyond urging us not to move her.
Her husband wrapped her in blankets. My wife got her somehow to sip a cup of tea. Darkness set in.
The temperature continued to fall. Again, imagine this being your neighbour, your mum, your dad or grandparent – or even you.
The ambulance finally arrived at 7.21pm. Again, I don’t blame them. This is the busiest the service has been in its history. On a typical day they receive around 5,500 calls. Right now it’s more than 7,000.
“We apologise for the delay in reaching this patient and any distress that this might have caused,” said their statement later.
“We aim to reach patients as quickly as we can and give all callers clear advice about ringing 999 again if the condition of the patient changes.”
This government will sink champagne at their party conference this week and pat themselves on the back, insisting they ARE pumping money into the NHS.
Ordinary people across the country, however, are experiencing similar waits as my neighbour with that “cash” not translating into easily accessible services.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid is instead trying to steer us away from all that by targeting Premier League footballers yet to have the jab. What a surprise.
My neighbour will have had surgery on her broken hip by the time you read this. God willing she is OK. She is a tough, wonderful woman who endured what millions of people are suffering right now. But what she went through is shameful.