PATIENTS in Essex have told how they have had to wait hours for an ambulance, with one resident claiming she waited four hours while having a suspected heart attack.

The East of England Ambulance Service is experiencing the most significant and sustained pressures in recent years, according to chief executive Tom Abell.

One contributing factor is the fact 261 employees across the trust are currently off with Covid-related absences, which is nearly four per cent of the workforce.

The NHS body has now activated its Emergency Operations Centre Standard Operating Procedure so ambulances will only be sent to the most severe cases.


As a result, some patients have reportedly had to wait nearly an entire day before seeing a paramedic, a response time which falls far below the national standards.

Sal Lou, 44, from Colchester, says she had to wait more than eight hours back in December after dislocating her hip, despite being in excruciating agony.

She said: “I was stuck in bed, I could not move, eat, drink or pee and I did not know how long I would have to wait for.

“The ambulance service told my husband it could be up to ten hours, but he didn’t tell me that as I was already stressed from the pain.

“I was petrified and I was thinking I would be stuck forever - but that’s what pain does, it makes you overthink things.

“The ambulance crew were amazing, apologetic and understanding and I felt in safe hands – I don’t blame them, nor the hospital staff, it comes from higher up the chain.”


Louise Smyles, 43, from Colchester, says she had to endure four and half horrifying hours while having a suspected heart attack before eventually being rushed to hospital - hours longer than the target time of seven minutes.

She said: “Without being dramatic, I really thought my little boy, who had additional needs, was going to watch me die.

“He called the ambulance for me and told them all my symptoms and said mummy was having a heart attack and they said it would be a 90 minute wait.

“It was horrid and the most terrifying thing I have gone through but the paramedics were lovely – I am now on heart medication for life.”

Tom Abell, chief executive of the East of England Ambulance Service, has addressed reports some residents have had to wait up to 20-hours to see a paramedic.

In a bid to combat the stark reality currently facing ambulance workers and those they are trying to help the NHS trust is looking to make several mitigating actions.

These include strengthening clinical triage within control centres and increasing the number of patients sent to other NHS services.

There is also a move to increase the number of ambulances available by offering additional overtime and working with private ambulance providers.  


Arrangements are also being explored with hospitals across the region in a bid to reduce handover times.

Mr Abell said: “I am very sorry to those patients having to wait longer than we would like as we prioritise those patients who require emergency life-saving care.

“I recognise the immense impact of these pressures on our people and supporting them and our patients is my number one priority.  

“Although there are no simple solutions, by working together as a team across our service and the wider NHS we can begin to take steps to improve.”