Man told to wait 16 hours for ambulance despite fears for friend's life

The East of England Ambulance service board met for the first time since the CQC report. Photo: EEAS

EEAST has apologised for the distress. - Credit: EEAST

A man who called 999 concerned for a suicidal friend was told he had to wait for an ambulance for 16 hours. 

Neil Vincent, from Norwich, criticised the response time from the East of England Ambulance Service (EEAST) after receiving a concerning message from a friend on Sunday afternoon.  

An EEAST spokesman said it took all calls relating to mental health distress seriously and had experienced very high demand for serious calls that day.

Mr Vincent said he called at 1.51pm on Sunday and after 10 minutes on hold was told an ambulance had been dispatched.  

In a follow up call more than three hours after arriving to calm his distressed friend, who was covered in cuts and bruises, ambulance staff said delays were up to 16 hours. 

The 43-year-old said: "They didn't know I live within 20 minutes of him, he could have gone through with it. 

“I talked to him and calmed him down, and got him to bed whilst I sit there waiting for the ambulance. 

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"Three-and-a-half hours later there was still no ambulance and I rang them back. The caller I spoke to said there would be a 16 hour delay.”  

He was supported by the 44-year-old's family and said his friend was not aware an ambulance had been called.

He said: "They said the ambulance had been dispatched and every time we heard a siren, we thought is this the one? 

"It was seven hours in the end. You do not know whether it is a life or death situation." 

Calls regarding mental health are renewed by a clinician who may call the patient directly or recategorise the call.  

In cases where patients are not alone it can reduce the immediate risk to the patient.  

An EEAST spokesperson said; “We would like to apologise for any distress caused to the patient or their loved ones. 

"Although the patient was accompanied throughout and declined help from our crew on arrival, we understand the concern this experience may have caused and would encourage them to contact us so that we can look into this and provide support.” 

This week it was revealed EEAST’s demand is on par with festive demand, receiving more than 4,200 calls a day in July. 

The EEAST spokesman added; "All calls are taken seriously and those relating to mental health distress are reviewed by an experienced clinician, who may call the patient directly or change the priority of the call, if appropriate.” 

A neighbour took over watching the man and was present when the crew arrived at around 8.45pm that evening - nearly seven hours later. 

If you need help or support, contact the Samaritans on 116 123 or Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust’s First Response helpline on 0808 196 3494 both 24/7.

Alternatively download the Stay Alive app, which is backed by Suffolk User Forum, if you are having thoughts of suicide or if you are concerned about someone else.

Charity encourages people to speak out on World Suicide Prevention Day

Finances, loneliness and strain on relationships were the three key worries raised to Samaritans volunteers during the pandemic. 

As part of World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10, the charity set out to encourage people to share the things in life that give them hope. 

In a report looking at one year since the pandemic started, the charity found middle-aged men experienced the highest suicide rate. 

Men in the age group reported feeling shame about losing their employment and pressures to be the breadwinners of their family.

The subject was a common factor affecting people of all ages and genders but the report found men were less likely to open up when feeling low.

A Samaritans spokesman said: "With the long-term effects of the pandemic likely to be felt for several years, sharing ways of remaining hopeful could support anyone struggling to cope and be an important reminder that you do not have to struggle alone, help and support is available."