Woman, 81, found dead almost four hours after calling 999 with chest pains

Paramedics found the woman dead in her home. Picture: SIMON FINLAY

Paramedics found the woman dead in her home. Picture: SIMON FINLAY - Credit: Archant Norfolk

Paramedics found an 81-year-old woman dead in her Essex home almost four hours after she called for an ambulance.

The patient from Clacton-on-Sea phoned 999 complaining of chest pains around 8pm on Tuesday, but help did not arrive until 11.46pm.

The crew broke into the woman’s home, but she had already died.

Dave Powell, regional officer for the union GMB, said the incident was another example of how the NHS was not coping with the surge in demand this winter.

He said: “I’m sure this case is much more widespread than the public is aware of.”


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Mr Powell said the paramedics were “emotional” after the incident.

“They’re devastated because they’re not in the job to find people dead, they’re in the job to help people and keep them alive,” he added.

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“It puts enormous strain and stress on people who are working really hard as it is.

“Three hours and 45 minutes is totally unacceptable for an elderly woman on her own with chest pains.

“Something has got to be done and the Government has got to wake up to this crisis.”

Clacton MP Giles Watling branded the incident “appalling”.

“Paramedics should be able to turn up on time,” he said. “I have no idea what happened in this particular case but it needs serious looking at if there was a delay like that. There needs to be some sort of inquiry.”

Mr Watling added: “If this event is due to lack of resource then we need to look at resources.”

Sandy Brown, deputy chief executive at EEAST, said the trust was facing “extremely high demand” and delays at A&E units, which meant it was unable to immediately dispatch an ambulance.

He said: “A clinician in one of our control rooms made a welfare call and spoke to the patient at 9.47pm and an ambulance crew arrived at the address at 11.46pm. The patient was found unconscious and not breathing and sadly died at the scene.”

The trust received more than 4,200 calls across the East of England on Tuesday, more than 1,300 of which were in Essex.

EEAST had to use taxis to transport 18 patients to hospital, including two in Essex.

This incident is being investigated and the trust will report back its findings in due course.

Mr Brown added: “Our sincere condolences and apologies go out to the patient’s family and friends and we are truly sorry for the ambulance wait that occurred at this incident.

“We have very publicly expressed how stretched the ambulance service is and the pressures our staff and the NHS as a whole have been under the past few days.

“As a trust, we have experienced our busiest days ever and we know our partners in the hospitals are in the same situation.

“We are working in partnership but we are facing hospital handover delays, which can prevent us from responding as quickly as we need to.”

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