Heart failure Sudbury OAP in 20-minute wait

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A CHURCH warden says she is concerned about the time it took to get an ambulance to a 91-year-old woman who was taken ill at a function in Sudbury.

Dorothy Gilks, a retired nurse, said she had to ring 999 twice before a first responder arrived – 20 minutes later – to help Ellen Lansdale, who had started choking during a meal at All Saints Church.

The pensioner, from Hanover Court in Sudbury, returned home on Tuesday following treatment at West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds. She had, in fact, suffered heart failure.

Mrs Gilks, of Cross Street, Sudbury, said she first called 999 at about 1pm, explaining that the elderly parishioner was choking.

“I spoke to the ambulance service and answered all the questions they asked me,” she said. “I was told that I would get a call back in 10 minutes, once they had assessed the situation.

“I thought that was a bit strange, but I went back inside to see how Ellen was doing. She had been poorly for a little while before I called 999.

“When I wasn’t called back, I rang 999 again and went through the same procedure of answering questions.

“It must have been about 20 minutes in all before someone from the first responders turned up, and then an ambulance finally came.

“I didn’t really know how long it had been, but it did seem an awfully long time before help arrived. It is worrying when you can see someone getting physically worse before your eyes.”

Mrs Gilks said the incident happened at the First Sunday Solo Lunch, which is held once a month at the church hall in Church Street.

A spokeswoman for the East of England Ambulance Service said Mrs Gilks’ initial call was categorised as the second lowest priority call after a series of questions to assess how urgent it was. Her second call was upgraded as more urgent.

“The perception is that an ambulance will be on the scene immediately, but we categorise all calls according to the type of emergency,” said the spokeswoman. “Only the immediate life-threatening calls are subject to our eight-minute call-out target.

“In this case, it was graded as our second lowest priority call. The initial call was at 1.18pm and we had someone on the scene at 1.36pm, which is within the 20-minute target.”