Ambulance bosses have apologised after a 91-year-old woman was left waiting for hours with a broken hip.
The North West Ambulance Trust (NWAS) blamed a spike in calls for the delay in helping the St Annes pensioner, who underwent surgery for her injuries.
Her furious friend, John Gregson, 75, said: “I can’t believe this has happened to be honest. It beggars belief.
“If I was hearing this while out and meeting someone, I would think it’s exaggerated.
Mr Gregson said the former Preston teacher, who is now recovering at the Victoria hospital, fell in the kitchen of her Caryl Road home, where she lives alone, at around 1.30pm on Monday.
The widow called the NHS 111 telephone service an hour later, and described her injuries, he said.
Mr Gregson, from Longton, said she was told an ambulance would attend but, after one didn’t, neighbours dialled 999 after calling round to her house.
Mr Gregson said he then called at around 6.30pm to ask where it was, with the neighbours calling again at around 7pm.
NWAS said it was unable to comment on the 111 call due to confidentiality rules, but said a 999 call was received at 5.47pm, with an ambulance arriving at 7.42pm – almost two hours later, and five-and-a-half hours after the call to 111.
The original call was given a classification of ‘green two’ – a non-emergency category which means the ambulance should have arrived within 20 minutes.
It was later upgraded to an urgent ‘red two’ – which has a target of eight minutes.
NWAS did not say when the call was upgraded.
Mr Gregson added: “Okay, they have had an upsurge, but if a 91-year-old is in a house on her own having fallen and hurt her hip, that’s surely more than a ‘green two’ call.
“It’s an emergency. Is this satisfactory? Not at all.”
Handover times, combined with the surge in calls, is understood to be factor behind the delay, with Mr Gregson saying there was a ‘queue’ of ambulances at the hospital as paramedics waited to sign patients over.
Alongside other hospitals in the region, NWAS said time spent waiting outside busy casualty departments equated to taking 33 ambulances off the road for a week.
And last year, the service spent £7 million on private ambulances, double the amount the year before in order to cope with spikes in demand.
NWAS said it has now been given extra money to recruit more staff and buy more vehicles, but warned that will take time.
Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs the Vic, last week pleaded for people to really consider whether they are ill enough for A&E before turning up.
It came after a study found 50 per cent could have gone to the walk-in centre on Whitegate Drive on consulted their pharmacist instead, and during Euro 2016, with usually leads to an increase in domestic, drink and drug injuries..
Earlier this year, a nurse was assigned to the corridor at A&E to help reduce average handover times of almost 25 minutes.