Ambulance-wait man 'in rain' in Cheddar for four hours

Neil Welchman
Image caption Dennis Welchman's son Neil said it was "disgusting" his father had to wait for four hours in the rain

An elderly man was left lying in a gutter for four hours with a broken hip while waiting for an ambulance, his family said.

They claim they were told not to move Dennis Welchman, 75, after he fell in Cheddar, Somerset on Tuesday night.

South Western Ambulance Service (SWAS) said it was given conflicting information about his injuries.

A spokesman added staff were called out to two life-threatening emergencies in Cheddar at the time.

Mr Welchman fell while getting out of his car at about 16:00 GMT and a passer-by called the emergency services.

The family said three more 999 calls were made before the ambulance crew arrived at 19:45.

SWAS said in the first call they were told a man had fallen but was uninjured and did not want an ambulance to attend.

Mr Welchman's daughter, Carren Chew, said: "Four hours, that's exceptional, it's out of order."

His son, Neil Welchman, said: "He has been lying in the middle of the road in the soaking wet and it's taken this long to get an ambulance there - it's disgusting."

Image caption Dennis Welchman fell over while getting out of his car in Cheddar

Analysis by Matthew Hill, Health Correspondent

When I arrived at the scene, the patient was being treated in the ambulance.

The rain was easing off but it had been pretty heavy for some time.

I spoke to Neil Welchman, the son of the patient, who was clearly distressed.

He told me his father Dennis had been lying by the side of the road in a pool of water for hours.

This call would not have been considered life-threatening and therefore there is no target time for such callouts.

However, his family feel, given the circumstances, it should have been much sooner.

A spokesman for SWAS said because Mr Welchman was conscious and breathing, the call was categorised as "priority three" which means it is "not immediately life-threatening".

"Owing to the volume of calls the ambulance service is dealing with - more than 500 additional calls every day than five years ago - it is necessary to prioritise our resources to patients who are unconscious and not breathing," the spokesman added.

"Unfortunately, there are occasions like this where we take longer to reach patients than we would like."

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