Tyne & Wear

Irene Swinbank's six-hour wait after 999 call

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Media captionIrene Swinbanks slipped in her bathroom and broke her shoulder at her South Shields home.

A 71-year-old woman was left lying on the floor for six hours waiting for an ambulance after a fall at her bungalow.

The family of Irene Swinbank was told not to move her after she slipped in her bathroom in Westoe, South Shields, and broke her shoulder.

Three ambulances were sent but all were diverted to other emergencies.

The North East Ambulance Service apologised and said that it was experiencing a high volume of emergency calls on the day.

Mrs Swinbank was reaching for a towel after getting out of the shower when she slipped and hurt her shoulder.

She managed to crawl into the hall to call her daughter-in-law Liz Law, 46.

The widow suffers from rheumatoid arthritis and has two artificial elbows and a wrist.

Mrs Law said: "We managed to get some clothes on her without causing too much pain.

"Her left shoulder was visibly bruised and out of place. We were told not to give her anything to eat or drink and she was lying on the floor for six hours."

The ambulance service said because Mrs Swinbank was in her own home with family the case was classed as "non-threatening."

'Sincerely apologise'

In such cases, an ambulance is supposed to reach patients within an hour.

Mrs Law dialled 999 just before 10:00 on Saturday and an ambulance came just before 16:00 GMT.

A statement from the service said: "We are sorry our response time fell below our normal performance level, and would like to sincerely apologise for what must have been an uncomfortable delay.

"On the day in question we were experiencing a particularly high level of calls.

"Ambulances vehicles are prioritised on a clinical basis to the patient in most serious need.

"During busy periods this can lead to delays in leading to non-life threatening cases."

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