Dangers of being taken ill on a Saturday night in Audlem

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With the debate starting about down-grading the Fire Service in Audlem now underway (see Articles), the experience of an Audlem resident with the ambulance service may be worth taking very seriously indeed. A correspondent writes:

"If you are taken seriously ill in Audlem on a Saturday night, beware! After being taken ill and passing through the tedious NHS Direct (15 mins of questions and answers and self tests — when one is feeling very under the weather this can be a little trying to say the least) my wife was advised to call an ambulance. This she duly did and was informed that one was 2 miles away and would arrive quickly. After approximately 20 minutes and no sign of the ambulance, my wife contacted the ambulance service again to enquire as to the ETA of the vehicle, only to be told that an ambulance was on its way and would arrive as soon as possible and was I still breathing!!! Enquiries as to the possible length of time before arrival was met with "as soon as possible."

"Explanation from my wife to the ambulance service as to the distance from Audlem to Leighton, some 14 miles approximately, so she could make a decision whether it would have been better for her to drive me to hospital or wait for the ambulance were not replied to, nor could the ambulance service give her any idea as to the expected time of arrival in order to help with this decision. This left her in an impossible position, and every enquiry was met by the stock answer "as soon as possible"

"My wife, suitably concerned as to my state of health, continued to enquire of the ambulance service every subsequent 15 minutes as to the ETA only to be told that the ambulance was on its way and would arrive as soon as possible. It was 1 hour and 10 minutes from the original call until the ambulance arrived. I suppose that if I had suffered a heart attack , I probably wouldn't be typing this now, and that if I had stopped breathing during this waiting time, the said ambulance would have been cancelled and the meat wagon probably despatched in its place!

"I've got to say that when the ambulance arrived — from Widnes — the crew were great, as were the doctors and nurses at A&E in Leighton.

"Points from this are:-

1. Why was my wife initially told that there was an ambulance only 2 miles away?

2. Was the only ambulance available to cover the Audlem area in Widnes?

3. Is this something to do with the amalgamation of this service to Ellesmere Port and there being no local control centre or locally based ambulances?

4. Is it understood by the Audlem population that you must not fall ill outside normal working hours and especially not on a Saturday night?

5. What is the standard response time target for a call to the ambulance service? Consider the Shropshire and Staffordshire ambulance response times!

6. If my wife had at least some idea of the ETA of the ambulance she could have then made the decision whether to risk taking me to Leighton as it could have been potentially quicker.

7. As a result of these stock answers and the inability of the ambulance service to give an ETA, the fact that the ambulance was dispatched from Widnes, and if I had been in a more serous life threatening situation, I would have probably died waiting for the ambulance to arrive.

8. Is Audlem a step too far for the ambulance service?"