Fury as woman forced to take grandfather on wooden plank to hospital

Ambulance workers and NHS staff to strike days before Christmas

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A 27-year-old woman says she was dismayed after she was forced to strap her grandfather to a plank of wood and transport him to the hospital in the back of a van as there were no NHS ambulances available. Nicole Lea spoke of her shock after the NHS rejected her call when her 89-year-old grandfather suffered from a broken hip after he collapsed. Melvyn Ryan, an 89-year-old pensioner, was discovered on the floor of his home in Cwmbran, South Wales, by his granddaughter Nicole early on Friday morning. The emergency lifeline button on the pensioner’s neck, had called out to her, the 27-year-old said.

When she arrived, Ms Lea discovered that her grandfather had also suffered a broken shoulder and was bleeding from a cut on his head. Ms Lea, who lives six miles away from her granddad in Pontypool, tried to call an ambulance but was told emergency services could not attend her, and none would come to help her.

To Ms Lea’s dismay, the call handler reportedly instructed her to contact an after-hours GP and book a taxi to transport the pensioner to the hospital before hanging up to “answer other calls”. 

Ms Lea, who has been Mr Melvyn’s main carer since he lost his wife Maureen to Covid in 2020, reportedly said: “I couldn’t really believe what I was being told.

“I was expecting a long wait for paramedics but never thought I’d literally be told: ‘We have nothing to send, you’ll have to find alternative transport’.” 

Ms Lea, who is a firefighter, continued: “I was left with granddad on the floor in agony and me wondering how I was going to save his life.

“I ended up, with my partner and mum’s help, getting him onto a plank of wood and into the back of the van we bought to transport our dogs. 

“To make matters worse, when we did get him to hospital the staff there told me that had we followed the advice we’d been given over the phone, he could’ve died.

“They told us that had we sat him up in a taxi the break in his hip would’ve likely ruptured an artery and been catastrophic for him.”

Ms Lea said she was left she was left to her own devices when her call was rejected. While Ms Lea was aware the NHS was undergoing major cuts and was understaffed, she did not expect her cry for help to be dismissed.

“But what I didn’t know when I called 999 was that they’d just turn around and say they weren’t sending help. Neither did I know they’d hang up on me, expecting me to figure out how to get him to safety.

“It’s only because of teamwork, brainstorming and quick thinking that the three of us managed to get grandad – an army veteran – to the Grange University Hospital (in nearby Llanfrechfa) within a couple of hours.”

Lee Brooks, Executive Director of Operations at the Welsh Ambulance Service, apologised for the incident and appreciated it must have been upsetting for Melvyn Ryan and her granddaughter. 

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The incident comes as thousands of NHS operations and appointments are being cancelled across England, Wales and Northern Ireland after last-ditch talks failed to avert the first nursing strike in a generation.

Nursing unions offered to postpone scheduled strikes in exchange for salary negotiations, but ministers rejected the proposal, claiming that the government was unable to change awards made by the independent pay authority for NHS employees.

As a result, up to 100,000 members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) will walk out on Thursday, leaving just “life and limb” coverage available and only cancer patients and emergencies eligible for surgery.

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