A grandfather has spoken of his desperation as he waited for an ambulance to help his seriously injured grandson.
Ashton Coleman, 11, suffered a ‘huge rip’ to his body and ‘heavy bloodloss’ after a horrific accident at The Triangle leisure centre in Burgess Hill.
But despite multiple 999 calls made by the centre staff and Ashton’s family, they were told an ambulance could take 80 minutes to arrive, and Ashton was driven to the A&E at Princess Royal Hospital by his distraught mum Jodie.
South East Coast Ambulance Service (SECAmb) has apologised and said it will look into the family’s concerns.
Grandfather Nick Downer told the Middy: “I am 58 and have never called 999 for an ambulance before, but I always believed that if one was needed, one would come quickly – how wrong I was.”
He added: “We genuinely feared he would bleed to death – it was a catastrophic situation.”
Mr Downer said his grandson suffered the injury in an accident at the leisure centre on Tuesday, May 30.
He said staff immediately called for an ambulance, but when he and his wife Jane arrived at The Triangle 20 minutes later no help had arrived.
“As a desperate and very worried grandad, I called 999 to urgently request an update on how close the ambulance was,” he said.
“I quickly explained that we needed urgent assistance as we had an 11-year-old child who had suffered a serious accident with a huge rip in his body with substantial heavy blood loss and I was concerned for his survival.”
Mr Downer said the ambulance service told him Ashton was not considered a priority, and they were busy.
“I was simply told an ambulance would come, but they could not give me any timescale,” he said.
“I repeatedly and very desperately asked for their urgent help as I feared for his life.
“All the call handler kept saying was that other people would have a higher priority and that any unconscious person, especially a child, would receive a much higher priority.
“I begged them for their help, but the operator just repeated that it would get there when it could.”
Mr Downer said by this point Ashton had been left waiting 35 minutes, and said he was ‘bleeding heavily’, ‘in agony’ and ‘very frightened and shocked’.
“His mother Jodie made the difficult decision that, as Ashton had been completely let down by the ambulance service, the only option available to her to try and get her son the urgent care he needed, was to risk driving him to A&E.”
Mr Downer said he called the Princess Royal Hospital to say Ashton was being driven in and was told they should head to hospital in Brighton instead.
He added: “I didn’t think he would survive such a journey in rush hour.”
“The whole family feels totally destroyed by this massive failure of the ambulance service.”
Mr Downer added: “In fairness, the A&E staff at The Princess Royal, were very good when we got there.”
Ashton was transferred to the Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital in Brighton.
Mr Downer said: “He is recovering better than expected. He had to have two hours of reconstructive surgery and will go on to have plastic surgery.
“For Ashton and his mum Jodie, it was the most traumatic and frightening experience of their lives.
“Ashton was so incredibly brave through it all. Even the hospital staff said he was a very brave young man.”
Mr Downer said the family wanted to thank The Triangle staff, in particularly the centre’s first aider Luke who tended to Ashton and accompanied the family to A&E.
A SECAmb trust spokesman said: “We are sorry if the service provided fell short of the family’s expectations.
“We have received a complaint from the family and will look into the concerns they have raised.
“Based on the information given at the time by the caller, this emergency was categorised as non life-threatening.
“This decision was reviewed at the time by a clinician in our control centre and it was agreed that an ambulance would attend the scene to transport the patient to hospital within an hour.
“However, before we arrived we were informed that the ambulance was no longer required.”
A spokesman from The Triangle said: “All incidents at our centre are taken extremely seriously.
“After examining the young customer’s injuries on Tuesday, a member of The Triangle’s staff phoned the emergency services at 16.57 and was on the call for 16 minutes, including a period spent on hold.
“After answering the 999 operator’s standard triage questions, our staff were advised of a projected wait of up to 80 minutes for an ambulance to attend.
“We respected the decision of the family to take matters into their own hands, and liaised with the emergency services to cancel the ambulance at 17.46.
“We would like to take this opportunity to wish our young customer a full and speedy recovery.”
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