Ambulance bosses have come under fire for failing to turn out a crew for an 86-year-old man who suffered a head injury when he was knocked over by high winds.
A group of people took the man to the nearby Coral betting shop in Fowler Street, South Shields, and rang for medical assistance
But no ambulance was sent after the incident at about 4.30pm on Saturday.
Ambulance chiefs say the man refused an ambulance while he was being looked after for three hours at the shop.
However, the good Samaritans who came to his aid said the man, who was simply saying he wanted to go home, was not in the right state of mind to make that decision and the ambulance should have been sent out.
One of the helpers ordered a taxi to take the pensioner home at 8pm, but, when he called in at his home on Sunday morning he found a neighbour had contacted police after getting no answer when they knocked on his door, and officers broke in to find him lying on the floor.
The man was taken to Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary, where he is still receiving treatment after undergoing surgery.
A woman who stayed with the man after 999 calls were made from the betting shop has hit out at the ‘terrible’ decision by the North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) not to send out assistance and has made a complaint to management.
The North East Ambulance says a clinical review into the incident is under way – but insists patients can’t be forced to be transported to hospital ‘against their will’.
The row came to light as the NEAS raised its operational status to ‘severe pressure’ – meaning its response to potentially life-threatening calls has deteriorated.
The woman, who does not wish to be named, said: “I think the ambulance service were terrible, they should’ve sent out a rapid response vehicle. He was asked how he felt and just said he wanted to go home.
“He was in no state of mind to make that decision, and myself and the other people helping him don’t have medical knowledge. An ambulance should’ve been sent out.”
The man’s neighbour said: “He wasn’t answering the door. I rang the police and they found him lying on the floor. I phoned the hospital and was told he has had surgery.”
A Northumbria Police spokeswoman confirmed officers had been called out on Sunday over concerns for the elderly man’s safety.
The spokeswoman said: “Police were called to an address in South Shields on Sunday, December 6 following concerns for the occupant. Officers attended and found a man with a head injury, who was taken to hospital for treatment.
Maureen Gordon, head of clinical care and patient safety at North East Ambulance Service, said: “Sometimes a patient will refuse an ambulance. On those occasions, a clinician will continue the assessment and stress to the patient the importance of getting further help and any potential risks they might face.
“Unfortunately, we cannot insist people travel on an ambulance against their will unless they are not capable of making that decision themselves.
“We have received a complaint in relation to this incident and it will be subject to clinical review should there be any lessons we can learn.”