Family’s anguish as sick father dies in hospital after 11 hour wait for ambulance

Catherine Wilce with her sons John and Alan, her grandaughter Rachel Wilce and a photograph of her late husband John Henry Wilce.
Picture by Jane Coltman
Catherine Wilce with her sons John and Alan, her grandaughter Rachel Wilce and a photograph of her late husband John Henry Wilce. Picture by Jane Coltman

A heartbroken family have called for answers after their sick father was left waiting nearly 12 hours for an ambulance.

The family of John Henry Wilce say the delayed response by the North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) played a major part in the 86-year-old’s death.

The former RAF serviceman was seen by a doctor at his home in Bob Elliott House, Blyth, at around 4pm on October 27, with a request made for an ambulance to take him to the Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital in Cramlington by 6pm.

However, no ambulance turned up. Mr Wilce suffered a fall at 1am and, after ringing the ambulance’s call centre, the family said they were told to leave him lying on the floor.

An ambulance finally arrived just before 5am, but Mr Wilce died in hospital at 2pm on October 28, with doctors saying he had suffered a ruptured aneurysm.

Now his family have called for answers and lodged a formal complaint with the NEAS.

Mr Wilce’s son Alan said: “We rang up at 8pm asking where the ambulance was and they said they had more important people to deal with and he wasn’t life-threatening.

“We rang again at 11pm and were told the same. My father then suffered a fall at 1am. We rang the ambulance service again after the fall and were told to leave him where he was.

“It was another three hours before the ambulance arrived and took him to hospital.

“If he had been taken to hospital earlier, he might still be alive.

“We have put in a formal complaint.”

Alan, who said in one call to NEAS they were told they were busy as it was student night, added: “We just don’t want this to happen to anyone else. How can it take over 11 hours to take an 86-year-old man to hospital?”

A North East Ambulance Service spokesperson said: “This is a very sad case and we would like to offer our sincere condolences to Mr Wilce’s family.

“We have opened an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the delay to Mr Wilce, which will include whether there were any missed opportunities to reach him sooner.

“An early review of this case shows that the initial call came from a GP who, having assessed the patient, requested transport to hospital within two hours. This would have resulted in a response from a non-emergency ambulance.

“During subsequent calls to 111, the case was upgraded to a non-blue light emergency. The call handler did explain to the family that it was a busy time but made no reference to student night.

“We kept in touch with the family throughout to review the patient.

“We have received a formal complaint from Mr Wilce’s family and will keep them informed throughout the investigation process.”