AN injured 105-year-old woman was forced to wait more than two and a half hours for an ambulance after falling at her South Tyneside home.
Marion Beaton, one of the borough’s oldest residents, fell down in her flat at Durham Court, Hebburn, during the night and was not discovered until the next morning.
However, the agony continued for the frail pensioner when EIGHT ambulances instructed to come to her aid were diverted to other “emergency” calls.
Ambulance bosses have apologised, but a next-door neighbour of Miss Beaton and a residents’ leader at the Hebburn tower block, have blasted the delays as “disgusting.”
Miss Beaton, who celebrated her 105th birthday with fellow residents and the Mayor of South Tyneside, Coun Ernest Gibson in March, is believed to have fallen in the hallway of the flat, where she has lived since 1978, early last Friday.
A carer discovered the severely-deaf pensioner, who also has mobility problems, when she visited the flat before 8am.
Miss Beaton had suffered an arm injury, but was conscious and breathing when an ambulance was called.
However, one ambulance after another was called away from Miss Beaton, between 7.57am and 10.32am.
An ambulance eventually reached Miss Beaton at 10.32am and she was taken for treatment to her injured arm to South Tyneside District Hospital, where it is understood she is still being cared for.
Neighbours of Miss Beaton have expressed their anger at how long she was left waiting for treatment.
George Ludford, her next-door neighbour, blasted the ambulance delays as “disgusting.”
Mr Ludford, 67, said: “I cannot believe that it took two and a half hours for an ambulance to reach a woman who is 105 years old.
“If Marion is not a ‘priority’ at that age, who is?
“The carer found Marion lying in the passage of her flat when she called in the morning and immediately called for an ambulance.
“Marion cannot stand up and is severely deaf and I shudder to think what would have happened to her if the heating had not been on during the night.
“But why should a woman of that age have to wait so long for an ambulance? It’s absolutely disgusting. The NHS is just getting worse.”
The ambulance delay has also been criticised by Charlie Docherty, chairman of Durham Court Residents’ Association.
He said: “I think the delay was outrageous. The fact that a woman of that age was left waiting for help for so long is beyond belief.
“This is something that will shock elderly residents in Durham Court.”
North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) responds to calls depending on their seriousness.
Priority calls are classed as “Red 1” for respiratory/cardiac arrest cases and the target response time is eight minutes.
It is the same for “Red 2” cases, which cover all other life-threatening emergencies.
“Green 2” cases have a recommended response time of 30 minutes, while “Green 3” cases require a telephone assessment within 20 minutes, and an ambulance within one hour.
A spokesman for NEAS NHS Trust said: “It’s not acceptable that a 105-year-old lady had to wait this long, and we are sorry that we could not get there earlier than we did.
“We were called at 7.57am on May 16 to reports that the lady had fallen.
“She was with a carer. The lady suffered an arm injury, but was breathing and conscious.
“As the patient was deaf, the triaging process took a bit longer than usual.
“However, it was established that the lady was not in a life-threatening situation, and was classified as a Green 3.
“Between 7.57am and 10.32am, eight different crews were allocated to call – but all were diverted to ‘Red’ incidents, due to heavy demand.
“During the wait for a vehicle to become free, we kept in touch with the patient. Up until 9.44am there had been no change in her condition.
“However, due to the length of time waiting, the call was then upgraded to a Green 2.
“Having dealt with the life-threatening situations, our crew arrived at the scene at 10.32am, and took the lady to South Tyneside A&E for treatment to the army injury.”