Monday, 18 April 2011

'When is an emergency not an emergency?'

Concern over Ambulance Trust's 999 policy
Concerns over the 999 ambulance service have prompted a Wrecsam councillor to speak out after his son was injured during a football match.

Councillor Marc Jones, of Whitegate ward, Wrecsam, spoke out after his 14-year-old son was injured playing football for Ysgol Morgan Llwyd. A tackle by an opposing defender left him in agony and teachers and parents suspected a broken ankle.

Cllr Jones, who was watching the game, said:
"After seeing the extent of the injury, a teacher dialled 999 for an ambulance and he was asked if the injury was life threatening. When he explained the situation, the nurse said she'd ring back in 15 minutes. During this time, my son was in a lot of pain and feeling faint.

"She did ring back after 15 minutes and told the teacher that no ambulance would be attending for at least another hour. Both teachers and parents couldn't believe the response. We had the choice of leaving him lying on the field in the rain for an hour or me driving him to casualty at Wrexham. So we got the car onto the field and I drove him there myself.

"What concerns me most is that we were not qualified to say whether the injury was life threatening or not. Had he lost consciousness or had a blood clot, it might have become life threatening very quickly. The teachers were great and I have no criticism at all of them and I'm sure the ambulance staff were just following orders. But that suggests that the Ambulance Trust's policies are not up to scratch and I don't want other parents to go through what I went through."

He wrote to the Welsh Ambulance Trust to complain about the failure to attend and was promised an answer by 7 April. Cllr Jones said:
"I was told on March 29 that the investigation had been completed but the letter just needed checking and then signing off by the Trust's chief executive.

"Two weeks later (14 April) I received a letter stating that 'our investigations are still ongoing', which seems to contradict the earlier message. This all makes you wonder whether the left hand knows what the right hand is doing. It should be quite straightforward to explain why the trust has a policy in place of not responding to emergency calls that they deem to be non-life-threatening. What do they expect parents or teachers to do if this kind of thing happens again - when is an emergency not an emergency?"

Cllr Jones said he was also bemused that the Trust classifies Wrexham as a "rural" area for the purposes of its ambulance response times but even that category should still mean a response time of under 18 minutes. He said:
"With the best will in the world, Wrexham town is not a rural area. We were two miles from the Maelor hospital when the accident happened on the playing fields opposite Morgan Llwyd and it took me 15 minutes to get through the traffic.

"The lack of a response and the confusion in investigating the complaint make you wonder whether the Welsh Ambulance Trust is working properly as an organisation. I appreciate that people dial 999 for the wrong reasons sometimes, but when it's a child and it's drummed into you not to move the injured person, you dial 999 expecting a better response that that."

• Picture shows the leg a week after the injury.

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