Coroner questions priorities after OAP waited 10 hours to be admitted to Luton and Dunstable Hospital following fall

He waited on the floor for a “very prolonged time”
Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now

The death of a pensioner who waited 10 hours to be admitted to hospital after a fall has prompted a coroner to ask the ambulance service to reconsider its response priorities.

Michael John Vincent, 79, died at the Luton and Dunstable Hospital on December 20, 2022, after falling at his home. The first call to the East of England Ambulance Service was at about 7.29pm and was allocated as a C category, with an expected response within 18 minutes.

With the service having a very busy night and an unprecedented number of ambulances queuing outside hospitals Mr Vincent was left lying on the floor for what Sean Cummings, assistant coroner for Bedfordshire and Luton, described at his inquest as “a very prolonged time”.

Ambulances park outside the Accident and Emergency ward. Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty ImagesAmbulances park outside the Accident and Emergency ward. Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
Ambulances park outside the Accident and Emergency ward. Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

An ambulance attended promptly after he suffered a cardiac arrest and he was eventually admitted to hospital at 5.32am, but died as a result of a combination of undiagnosed bronchopneumonia complicated by severe artery disease and a long lie.

In a Prevention of Future Deaths report sent to the Chief Executive of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, the Managing Director of the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives and the National Medical Director of NHS England, the coroner says: “On the balance of probabilities it is likely that had he been admitted at the time of the first call he would not have died at the time he did.”

He says the 18-minute target was missed by “an enormous margin” and there is a probability that other frail, elderly individuals would have the same experience.

“Long lie after a fall, especially in the elderly, often results in a terminal kidney injury and death,” he says. “Consideration should be given to review how these types of emergency call are managed and thereafter monitored.”

The organisations have until January 2 to respond to the coroner’s concerns.

An East of England Ambulance Service spokesperson said: “We would like to offer our apologies to Mr Vincent’s family for our delayed response.

“Unfortunately, at the time of the call we were experiencing a high number of 999 calls, with 146 Category 2 calls waiting for an ambulance. In the Hertfordshire area alone, there were 19 Category 2 calls outstanding.

“We were unable to dispatch ambulances to these patients as quickly as we would like as we had ambulances waiting at hospitals to handover their patients for hospital care.

“Since the start of 2023 our response times have improved due to work to increase the number of frontline staff and available ambulances, but we recognise there is a lot more work needed by us and our partners to improve our response to patients.

“Our thoughts remain with Mr Vincent’s family and friends.”