A woman with excruciating back pain, who spent hours waiting for an ambulance outside Haverhill library, has described the experience as the “worst three hours of my life”.
Social worker Michala Carney has given an account of her story – including calling 999 four times – to Haverhill councillor Maureen Byrne who is compiling a dossier of ambulance wait times in the town.
Mrs Byrne says Haverhill is not getting a good enough service, and she is to present her research to the West Suffolk Clinical Commission Group (CCG), responsible for ambulance service funding.
Ironically, Miss Carney, 41, lives opposite the ambulance station in Camps Road, Haverhill, but her emergency nightmare happened in outside the library in April.
Recovering from a spinal operation weeks earlier and in a wheelchair, Michala was with her mother, Brenda, and daughter, Ellena, 12, when her back went into spasm.
Deciding to stand up to relieve the pain, Michala’s back “locked”. Her dad Alan, 69, was called to help.
She said: “I was left frozen to the spot with friends and family holding me upright for three hours. It was the worst three hours of my life.
“A 999 call was put through at approximately 6.30pm. Another 999 call was placed at approximately 7.15pm as my condition was worsening and my feet were turning blue.
“I was standing in a very awkward position and every time I moved another spasm would come - I had my dad supporting from behind and a friend was at the side of me, so I could lean on her. I was very cold and my breathing was very laboured.
“After that a third call was put in, my father was starting to feel unwell having stood for over an hour, and we were concerned for his health.
“When ambulance didn’t arrive as promised, we called 999 again at 9pm-ish and, as we were on the phone, a paramedic arrived. The ambulance arrived about 15 minutes later.”
Michala says she was taken to A&E at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge but claims her problems did not stop there.
After being moved to the assessment area, she was eventually seen by a doctor at 1.30am.
She added: “He gave me my usual medications and said that I would probably have to go home as they had no beds available. I was still having spasms.
“At 3am I was woken by a nurse who told me I needed to get up to go home. I explained there was no-one available to pick me up. I had no money or a coat with me.
“She replied that I could wait in reception until 6am when I could get on public transport.”
Michala did go to the reception area, but after feeling herself begin to faint, she was moved back to the assessment area. At 6.30am she was discharged from hospital and went home with her father.
“I feel the overall treatment I received at Addenbrooke’s was appalling. To send someone home who was having severe back spasms at 3am in the morning in a taxi is beyond elief,” she added.
A spokesman for Addenbrooke’s Hospital said: “We are sorry to hear the patient does not feel she was treated properly during her visit to A&E.
“All patients are assessed on arrival and it is our aim that they all receive the best care available. We would encourage her to contact PALS (Patient Advice and Liaison Service) to discuss her concerns further.”
Michala said she felt sorry for paramedics and ambulance service staff. “I’m sure they must feel frustrated with the waiting times; it’s not their fault.”
Michala, who hopes to return to work next month, says she believes an infection caused her back problem. She is planning to complain to Addenbrooke’s about her treatment.
“I worry about the emergency service Haverhill is getting. Obviously the town is growing and it’s not going to get any smaller; the problem could get worse,” she added.