Suffolk war veteran who died after hour and a half wait for an ambulance following fall at Walton-on-the-Naze “deserved better”

Norman Headworth during his time in the services

Norman Headworth during his time in the services

A 92-year-old Second World War veteran died after waiting an hour-and-a-half on a concrete step for an ambulance to arrive, it has emerged.

Norman Headworth and his daughter Moira Cruickshank

Norman Headworth and his daughter Moira Cruickshank

The family of former RAF air gunner Norman Headworth, of Long Melford, who suffered a head injury after falling down steps in Walton-on-the-Naze during a family day out, say he “deserved better”.

Mr Headworth’s inquest was held last month, but full details of the ambulance delay have only now been revealed.

His daughter Moira Cruikshank said although she agreed with the verdict of accidental death recorded at the inquest, she believes the outcome could have been different if the ambulance had treated her father as a priority case.

In a letter from the East of England Ambulance Service following an investigation into the case, chief executive Anthony Marsh gave his “sincere apologies” for the delay, which was blamed on 999 calls not being prioritised correctly on the day and ambulances being diverted onto more pressing cases.

Mr Headworth was eventually transported to Colchester General Hospital where he was diagnosed with a major bleed on the brain. Despite “excellent” care at the hospital, he died on May 29.

Mrs Cruikshank, 65, said before the accident her father was in good health and was looking forward to reaching the age of 100.

She said: “At 92, he had been through the War; he lived with us in a self-contained flat and was no burden on the state whatsoever.

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“It’s so sad because he missed out on all the D-Day commemorations, which he was looking forward to. He wanted to make 100 and probably would have done so. He deserved better.”

Mr Headworth was in Walton-on-the-Naze for an afternoon at the seaside and had been enjoying a cup of tea at a seafront pub. He fell as he was walking the short distance to meet his daughter, who was waiting for him in her car.

Mr Headworth’s son-in-law John Cruikshank, who is a retired cardiologist, believes his father-in-law was a low priority because of his age.

He said: “Waiting for the ambulance seemed to go on forever. We made at least three calls and I had to answer the same questions every time.

“He (Norman) had broken his wrist and banged his head – it was a severe injury.

“I am a medic but you don’t have to be a doctor to know that the quicker you get to a head injury, the better the chances of survival.

“Had the ambulance got there in the usual 20 minutes, the chances of his survival would have been better.”

In the letter to the Cruikshanks, Mr Marsh said: “I am able to state that between the time of 14:49 and 15:44 hours, all other emergency ambulances were either not available to respond for various reasons, or assigned to other emergency incidents which were coded higher and immediately life threatening or out of service for a variety of reasons.”

According to Mr Marsh, the patient’s age does not affect the coding of a 999 call or level of response provided.