Dad died during 11-hour ambulance wait

Barclay confronted by angry woman about ambulance delays

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As Steve Iles lay dying, his wife and daughter made six frantic 999 calls – two of those calls went unanswered for 10 minutes. An ambulance took 11 hours to arrive to the Iles’ home in Yate, near Bristol. By then it was too late.

Daughter Claire Iles, 41, told the BBC: “He just looked at me and he just passed away before they could even get to him.” 

“I rang about 4pm and said he has gone grey, and I said if you don’t come now he is going to die, and it was still 20 minutes before the ambulance turned up.”

The first call to 999 was made at 5.37am on March 19. Mr Iles died at 5.10pm on 19 March from a strangulated hernia that cut off the blood supply to his heart.

On the phone to emergency services, Claire said: “What we know is what he was bringing up was blood, internal bleeding.”

She told the BBC: “We stressed this to the call handler every time we called and they said ‘does it look like dark soil?’

“And we said ‘yes’. So they knew what he was bringing up was bleeding internally but even that, the seriousness of it, we just couldn’t seem to get over to them.”

South West Ambulance has the longest waits in the country for people to get through to a call handler. 

It takes almost a minute on average for ambulance control to answer 999 calls compared with just five seconds for the West Midlands service.

The South West Ambulance Trust apologised for the distress and anxiety caused but said it remained under “enormous pressure”.

A spokesperson told the BBC: “We are sorry that we were unable to provide a timely response to Mr Iles and we would again like to offer our sincere condolences to his family and loved ones.

“Our ambulance clinicians strive every day to give their best to patients, but our performance has not returned to pre-pandemic levels, partly due to handover delays at emergency departments.”

The trust said it was working with its partners in the NHS and social care to improve the service that patients receive.

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Another woman waited three minutes and two seconds to get through to 999 when she was first on the scene of a fatal motorbike crash in Westerleigh in August.

Charley Fiddes said the delay was very distressing: “Because where he lost control of the bike he put his leg down and unfortunately ended up losing a limb.

“I called 999, asked for ambulance, and was just then put on hold but they just keep saying stay on the phone if it’s an emergency.

She added: “As you are in shock you just want someone to answer the phone as you just don’t know what to do.”

The man, aged in his 50s, died despite an ambulance arriving at the scene shortly after Ms Fiddes got through to an emergency call handler.

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