Frail, elderly Scot lay in agony for almost eight hours waiting for ambulance

This shocking photograph shows an 86-year-old lying in agony on a hard floor for almost eight hours as she waited for an ambulance.

Lilian Briggs blacked out on the way into her kitchen and suffered a double fracture to her hip when she collapsed on to the tiled floor.

She was trapped in such an awkward position, and in such pain, her family were unable to move her in fear of causing more harm.

Her feet were in the hall and her body was trapped between the door and the kitchen units.

And even when the paramedics did arrive their first instinct was to seek the help of a second crew to help them move her safely.

But none were available so Lilian’s son Robert Ewing, 60, stepped up to help lift his frail mum on to a spinal board.

But last night Robert raged: “It is inhumane to leave someone lying like that. You wouldn’t do it to a dog.

“Something has got to be done.”

For weeks the Daily Record has been telling of the growing ambulance crisis and trade union Unite has already called for urgent action to help bring it to an end.

Last week we told how the average ambulance response time had risen to six hours – with many patients waiting almost four times that long.

And even when patients are picked up, they can wait many hours more in the back of the ambulance outside the country’s A & E departments.

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On Monday, Unite called for eight changes which would help protect patients and staff including a 30 minute maximum turnaround time from arrival at hospital which would free up paramedics to get on with serving Scotland’s sickest people.

And among other essential changes they want the empowerment of the SAS by the Scottish Government to say no to a request for an ambulance, potentially reducing inappropriate requests and leaving emergency transport for those most in need.

The situation has got so bad at the country’s biggest hospital, Glasgow’s Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, that the Red Cross has been drafted in to provide comfort to paramedics and patients forced to wait hours outside before they get into A & E.

Lilian suffers from Parkinsons and has a history of heart problems but other cases were given priority as she lay in agony on the floor

At one hospital last week, the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley, one crew waited nine and a half hours to hand over their patient.

Yesterday Lilian’s furious son told of his mum’s agony and how he and his sister Christine Burtt even had to step over her body to reach her to give her some comfort.

But they couldn’t even provide her with anything to eat or painkillers to ease her suffering in case she needed emergency surgery.

Robert, a taxi driver, said: “My mum suffers from Parkinsons and has had two heart attacks in the past. She also has skin cancer on her face.

“On Monday she blacked out. We think she was heading to the kitchen to answer a call from my sister when it happened.

“My mum was looking after my sister’s two dogs for half an hour while she popped out. When she didn’t get any answer she thought mum was either in the garden or something had happened so she went straight round. She only lives five minutes away.

“When she got there she found my mum on the floor. She was conscious but confused.

“She was lying on he floor with her feet sticking into the hallway and her body in the kitchen between the door and the units.

“We knew she had either broken her hip or her thigh bone. She also had bruises on her head.”

Robert Ewing says his mum's wait to get taken to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary was "inhumane"
Robert Ewing says his mum’s wait to get taken to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary was “inhumane”

All Robert and Christine could do was cover her with a blanket and cushion her head.

Robert said: “After she had been lying there for eight hours she was freezing cold and turning blue.”

Robert and Christine had called back the 999 service several times to see what was keeping the ambulance.

“I told them my mum was deteriorating. She was getting more confused and in more pain. I was worried about her Parkinsons and with her heart history.

“I told them ‘I hope the ambulance gets here before my mum dies’. But they just kept saying they had more priority cases than my mother.

“The last time my sister phoned she told them if they didn’t get an ambulance she was going to the Daily Record. And, behold, the ambulance arrived within half an hour.”

Christine had initially phoned 999 about 1pm with the ambulance finally arriving around 8.45pm.

Robert continued: “When the ambulance crew came they were trying to get another ambulance crew to help but no-one was available so I volunteered to help.

“They gave her two doses of morphine and then they put a shawl under her and used it to help put her on a spinal board.

“I couldn’t fault the paramedics, they were brilliant. The delays are not their fault.”

Lilian Briggs, trapped between the door and the units in her kitchen, for eight hours as she waited for paramedics to arrive
Lilian Briggs, trapped between the door and the units in her kitchen, for eight hours as she waited for paramedics to arrive

Twice widowed Lilian was taken to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and her children do not believe she had to wait at the hospital to get in.

Robert said: “I heard the two ambulance people saying they needed to get her into hospital straight away, in front of anyone else.”

On Tuesday Lilian underwent a four-hour-operation on her fractures but because there is Covid on the ward her family have been unable to visit.

Last night Lib-Dem leader Alex Cole-Hamilton, Robert’s local MSP, stated: “The suffering Lilian must have been through while waiting for care is unimaginable.

“To think someone as frail and vulnerable as her would effectively join the back of the queue for available ambulances underscores how the system is not working.

“Ambulance crews are not to blame. They are being sent where they are told and I am sure they are as devastated as the family that they were not able to arrive any quicker.

“The Government needs to undertake a fundamental review of ambulance procedures and shortages in the workforce.”

Labour’s health spokeswoman Jackie Bailie, who has been consistently raising the ambulance issue for weeks, commented: ”This is such a shocking case I am simply lost for words.

“What this has underlined is all the warnings paramedics have given us about the incredible pressure on the Scottish Ambulance Service and it is frankly outrageous that the Cabinet Secretary for Health is doing nothing to improve the position urgently.”

A Scottish Ambulance Service spokeswoman said: “While we are limited in what we can say due to patient confidentiality, we are very sorry for the delay in reaching Mrs Briggs after her fall, and we hope that she is recovering after surgery.

“We are currently experiencing extreme pressure due to hospitals operating at, or near, full capacity and staff abstractions.

“In addition to these external pressures, Monday in particular was exceptionally busy and this regrettably added to response times.

“Our dedicated staff are working incredibly hard to attend to patients as quickly as possible and investment in additional staff, ambulances and the latest equipment across the country continues at pace.”

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