COUNTY NEWS: Outrage at four hour wait for ambulance after town centre fall

A man was left waiting in the cold for an ambulance for more than four hours after falling and smashing his head outside a town centre store.

Paramedics arrived in Horsham town centre four-and-a-half-hours after being called.
Paramedics arrived in Horsham town centre four-and-a-half-hours after being called.

The man was found lying outside the Cancer Research store in East Street, Horsham, on Thursday morning (November 16).

Janice Smith, assistant manager at the charity shop, helped treat him and phoned for an ambulance four times but was told although he was on the emergency list he was ‘not a priority’ as he was still conscious and breathing.

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She said: “It was extremely frustrating. He smashed his face, his head his hands and he was doubled up.

“To leave a man on the streets in Horsham in the 21 century is not good is it.”

Janice was inside the shop when two women came rushing in just before 11.15am asking for a walking stick to help a man up. She found an umbrella and went out to check on the man.

The trio managed to move him to a chair outside the charity shop but were unable to get him inside due to his injuries.

Janice, who is first aid trained, said: “I couldn’t move him because he couldn’t move and when I phoned 999 they told me I wasn’t allowed to move him.”

After calling the emergency services she waited outside with him for the ambulance.

She said: “I didn’t know what to do. They told me to stay with him because he had hit his head.

“We thought it would be 20 minutes to half-an-hour so we wrapped him up and gave him a hot water bottle because he was in shock.

“I gave it three quarters-of-an-hour and then I thought enough is enough so I rang again. Then I left it another hour.”

She continued to phone every hour and also called a GP surgery in-between to see if they could help.

She added: “They (the ambulance service) were saying because he is still breathing other people take priority. In my eyes that’s no reason to leave someone on the street. This poor man was sitting there and needed help.

“People could not believe it. People walking by and customers said it was shocking, they were absolutely disgusted.

“They (the ambulance service) are under stress and we do understand that but its not good enough in Horsham.”

The paramedics arrived at 3.45pm and took the man away in an ambulance.

Janice has called on more services to be provided in Horsham to stop this from happening again.

She said: “We need some sort of help here. We need a hospital.

“If they leave a man in the street for four hours what’s it going to be like if we have more houses?”

Trish Law, who was in the store at time of the incident, added: “It’s all gone very quiet about our emergency services. It frightens me. We are an aging community and we need a hospital here.”

South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust apologised for the delay and thanked everyone who helped at the scene.

A spokesman said: “We are extremely sorry for the delay in responding to this gentleman. We appreciate that he would have been in a great deal of pain and discomfort. We are very sorry for the additional distress the delay would have caused him and everyone involved.

“We have a duty to prioritise immediately life-threatening calls, and while we are working hard to improve response times across our region, there are times when demand for our services means we are unable to reach some patients as quickly as we would like.

“We would invite the gentleman or his family to contact us so we can fully investigate and report back to them directly.

“In the meantime we would like to thank everyone who helped him at the scene and wish him a good recovery.”