Mother 'disgusted' with London Ambulance Service after waiting over an hour in the pouring rain in Cheam Park

Ms Spray and her son Alfie where the accident took place

Ms Spray and her son Alfie where the accident took place

First published in News Sutton Guardian: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter

A mother whose two-year-old son broke his arm in a public park, waited more than an hour for an ambulance.

Holly Spray from Wallington eventually got her partner to drive them to hospital, after her two-year-old son Alfie Fox fell off the edge of a sandpit in Cheam Park, Cheam.

A passerby phoned 999, but after half an hour there was still no sign of an ambulance or a rapid response vehicle.

Ms Spray, 28, said: "It was horrifying seeing my son screaming all that time. 

"I also had my one-year-old daughter and two of my older sons with me, who were either crying or in a state of panic.

"I phoned 999 four times within one hour and twenty five minutes, but they still didn’t arrive.

"I feel disgusted with the ambulance service, they might have had more urgent things to go to, but they should have at least sent a response car.

"When I arrived at hospital they said he needed morphine immediately and he should have got to hospital sooner."

Alfie’s father Paul left work to drive them to St Helier Hospital, where they were told their son had broken his arm in two.

Alfie stayed in hospital overnight for an operation, and was released the following day with his arm in a cast.  

A London Ambulance spokesman said: "We were called at 1.28pm on August 11 to Cheam Park, Sutton, to reports of a two-year-old boy who had fallen and injured his arm.

"Our call taker confirmed the patient was conscious and breathing. We were very busy at the time and sent an ambulance at 2.19pm, which arrived at 2.31pm. However, the patient had already been taken to hospital.

"We are sorry it took longer than we would have liked to send an ambulance and apologise for any distress caused, but we always prioritise our response to patients in a life threatening condition."

Alfie’s arm will remain in the cast for another four to five weeks.

Do you have a similar story? Call the news desk on 0208 722 6358, or email tom.gillespie@london.newsquest.co.uk

Comments (21)

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2:13pm Thu 4 Sep 14

Forty_two says...

What a terrible story, but I think it's important to stress that this was not necessarily the "fault" of the London Ambulance Service as such - they are often over-stretched.

Imagine how much worse this situation (i.e. the availability of ambulances) would be had the planned BSBV downgrade of St. Helier and Epsom Hospitals gone ahead?

This would have meant that ambulance crews would have much longer round-trip journey times, and would certainly have an increase in cases where the ambulance must wait outside St. George's hospital because the A&E is full to capacity.

This story illustrates beautifully why it is important for us all to have a full A&E which is local to us!

Very glad to hear that you had good service from the fabulous staff at St. Helier hospital too (although given the age of the patient, I suspect Queen Mary's hospital for children, located on the St. Helier site also played an important role)!
What a terrible story, but I think it's important to stress that this was not necessarily the "fault" of the London Ambulance Service as such - they are often over-stretched. Imagine how much worse this situation (i.e. the availability of ambulances) would be had the planned BSBV downgrade of St. Helier and Epsom Hospitals gone ahead? This would have meant that ambulance crews would have much longer round-trip journey times, and would certainly have an increase in cases where the ambulance must wait outside St. George's hospital because the A&E is full to capacity. This story illustrates beautifully why it is important for us all to have a full A&E which is local to us! Very glad to hear that you had good service from the fabulous staff at St. Helier hospital too (although given the age of the patient, I suspect Queen Mary's hospital for children, located on the St. Helier site also played an important role)! Forty_two
  • Score: 14

2:25pm Thu 4 Sep 14

Countdooku says...

surely after 20 minutes any normal mortal would get a cab,friend, family member and go to the hospital, why would you wait 1hr and 20 min? and phone 4 times?! surely you'd just want to get the boy to hospital
surely after 20 minutes any normal mortal would get a cab,friend, family member and go to the hospital, why would you wait 1hr and 20 min? and phone 4 times?! surely you'd just want to get the boy to hospital Countdooku
  • Score: 30

2:26pm Thu 4 Sep 14

Georgia Lewis says...

As Forty_Two said, the situation must have been very distressing for all concerned but we do indeed need to be mindful that this is the result of an underfunded health service. Imagine our neighbourhood without St Helier Hospital and situations, such as this one, made worse by even longer journey times in ambulances that are going to have to cover more miles if we lose A&Es.

This is happening all over the country. We cannot be complacent and stand idly by as services such as A&E, maternity and children's services are all still under threat. The SW London Collaborative Commissioning strategy document makes it very clear that the plan is for St George's Hospital to keep all services at the expense of other hospitals in the area.

It is also worth bearing in mind that Carshalton & Wallington MP Tom Brake claims to be on the side of St Helier Hospital but he also claims (a) he has read the 290-page strategy document and (b) despite reading this document, he doesn't see how it represents a threat to St Helier Hospital.
As Forty_Two said, the situation must have been very distressing for all concerned but we do indeed need to be mindful that this is the result of an underfunded health service. Imagine our neighbourhood without St Helier Hospital and situations, such as this one, made worse by even longer journey times in ambulances that are going to have to cover more miles if we lose A&Es. This is happening all over the country. We cannot be complacent and stand idly by as services such as A&E, maternity and children's services are all still under threat. The SW London Collaborative Commissioning strategy document makes it very clear that the plan is for St George's Hospital to keep all services at the expense of other hospitals in the area. It is also worth bearing in mind that Carshalton & Wallington MP Tom Brake claims to be on the side of St Helier Hospital but he also claims (a) he has read the 290-page strategy document and (b) despite reading this document, he doesn't see how it represents a threat to St Helier Hospital. Georgia Lewis
  • Score: 15

2:28pm Thu 4 Sep 14

Georgia Lewis says...

Way to go with blaming the patient, Countdooku! The article clearly says she eventually got her partner to drive them to hospital and he had to leave work early in order to do so. She also had other children to consider, taxis are expensive and it is not unreasonable to expect a timely ambulance service when our taxes are paying for it. Good grief...
Way to go with blaming the patient, Countdooku! The article clearly says she eventually got her partner to drive them to hospital and he had to leave work early in order to do so. She also had other children to consider, taxis are expensive and it is not unreasonable to expect a timely ambulance service when our taxes are paying for it. Good grief... Georgia Lewis
  • Score: -2

2:42pm Thu 4 Sep 14

Forty_two says...

In fairness to the poor mother and child in this case CountDooku, when in a position such as this, the call centre staff who took the call would almost certainly have told her to remain where she was, and not to move the patient any more than was necessary - and it is can be hard to disobey such advice when your child's health is potentially at stake.

From the description in the article, the poor little soul would have been extremely distressed by the situation, and would be quite likely to be in shock, so for all sorts of reasons, not least of which the risk of inflicting more serious injury to the patient, staying put despite the long delay could arguably have been the safer option.

It's probably the last thing in someone's mind at the time, but there is also the issue of the then wasted trip by an ambulance if one does decide to make their own way to A&E.

Imagine how different this situation could have been had the poor lad needed to be taken all the way by his father to St. George's hospital in Tooting, quite possibly during rush hour?

Thank goodness for the wonderful people at St. Helier and Queen Mary's!

I wish Alfie a speedy recovery!
In fairness to the poor mother and child in this case CountDooku, when in a position such as this, the call centre staff who took the call would almost certainly have told her to remain where she was, and not to move the patient any more than was necessary - and it is can be hard to disobey such advice when your child's health is potentially at stake. From the description in the article, the poor little soul would have been extremely distressed by the situation, and would be quite likely to be in shock, so for all sorts of reasons, not least of which the risk of inflicting more serious injury to the patient, staying put despite the long delay could arguably have been the safer option. It's probably the last thing in someone's mind at the time, but there is also the issue of the then wasted trip by an ambulance if one does decide to make their own way to A&E. Imagine how different this situation could have been had the poor lad needed to be taken all the way by his father to St. George's hospital in Tooting, quite possibly during rush hour? Thank goodness for the wonderful people at St. Helier and Queen Mary's! I wish Alfie a speedy recovery! Forty_two
  • Score: 14

2:44pm Thu 4 Sep 14

Countdooku says...

I'm not blaming the patient, but you're missing my point, St Helier is five minutes away and would cost under £10 in a cab which in the circumstances would mean nothing if I needed to get to the hospital, Clearly if they hadn't turned up after 20 minutes, you'd go by other means, the LAS are vastly under-staffed and although our taxes do pay for this service sometimes they just can't cope, would you wait 1 hour for your dinner in a restaurant or just walk out?
I'm not blaming the patient, but you're missing my point, St Helier is five minutes away and would cost under £10 in a cab which in the circumstances would mean nothing if I needed to get to the hospital, Clearly if they hadn't turned up after 20 minutes, you'd go by other means, the LAS are vastly under-staffed and although our taxes do pay for this service sometimes they just can't cope, would you wait 1 hour for your dinner in a restaurant or just walk out? Countdooku
  • Score: 4

3:00pm Thu 4 Sep 14

Georgia Lewis says...

Really, Countdooku? You have compared waiting for urgent medical attention with waiting for a meal in a restaurant? You seem to know an awful lot about this family's personal circumstances.

The mother has four children to consider and it may have been difficult to either bundle them all into a taxi while looking after a badly injured, distressed child, the other children may not be old enough to be left home alone, calling a taxi is no guarantee of one turning up on time, maybe she didn't have £10 on her at the time and plenty of taxis don't like taking cards and so on and so forth...

Instead of judging this woman's parenting, why not call for proper funding of LAS and the wider NHS? Because that is the big issue here, not publicly shaming a mother who is trying to do the best she can by her kids.
Really, Countdooku? You have compared waiting for urgent medical attention with waiting for a meal in a restaurant? You seem to know an awful lot about this family's personal circumstances. The mother has four children to consider and it may have been difficult to either bundle them all into a taxi while looking after a badly injured, distressed child, the other children may not be old enough to be left home alone, calling a taxi is no guarantee of one turning up on time, maybe she didn't have £10 on her at the time and plenty of taxis don't like taking cards and so on and so forth... Instead of judging this woman's parenting, why not call for proper funding of LAS and the wider NHS? Because that is the big issue here, not publicly shaming a mother who is trying to do the best she can by her kids. Georgia Lewis
  • Score: 6

4:49pm Thu 4 Sep 14

Onelife says...

I'm the mother of Alfie I got told to stay there a ambulance would be there shortly Alfie was in so much pain that I had to wait for my partner my sister took my other 3 children & I had to hold Alfie's arm still as the bone was mms for the skin my partner was at work at aldershot if I could of put Alfie in that car in his car seat I would of driven my car but his arm was so bad it has to held now has pins holding the bone together as soon as he got to hospital he was given morphine I'm not faulting the hospital they was lovely I'm just upset that I was told to wait there an ambulance will be there soon
I'm the mother of Alfie I got told to stay there a ambulance would be there shortly Alfie was in so much pain that I had to wait for my partner my sister took my other 3 children & I had to hold Alfie's arm still as the bone was mms for the skin my partner was at work at aldershot if I could of put Alfie in that car in his car seat I would of driven my car but his arm was so bad it has to held now has pins holding the bone together as soon as he got to hospital he was given morphine I'm not faulting the hospital they was lovely I'm just upset that I was told to wait there an ambulance will be there soon Onelife
  • Score: 9

4:54pm Thu 4 Sep 14

Georgia Lewis says...

Thank you for sharing your side of the story, Onelife. I am horrified that Countdooku jumped to conclusions about what was clearly a very difficult situation for everyone. Here's hoping Alfie is on the mend!
Thank you for sharing your side of the story, Onelife. I am horrified that Countdooku jumped to conclusions about what was clearly a very difficult situation for everyone. Here's hoping Alfie is on the mend! Georgia Lewis
  • Score: 8

4:56pm Thu 4 Sep 14

Onelife says...

I did ring 999 to cancel the ambulance
I did ring 999 to cancel the ambulance Onelife
  • Score: 7

4:57pm Thu 4 Sep 14

Forty_two says...

Onelife - Thank you SO much for having the courage to post here. I hope Alfie is getting better now, and from my experience of the excellent fracture care offered at St. Helier, he will be well on the road to recovery soon.

One particular surgeon there who I know looks after injuries like Alfie's is not only an excellent surgeon, but also very nice with the kids who are almost invariably terrified out of their wits at the time. He, the hospital, you and probably most of all Little Alfie should be applauded.

And I understand why you would be cross that the Ambulance took so long to not arrive, the only observation I would make there is that it's almost certainly not the "fault" of the LAS staff themselves - rather it is penny pinching, and underfunding to which they, and indeed most of the NHS now face which is responsible for things like this.

Once more, thank goodness for St. Helier and Queen Mary's!
Onelife - Thank you SO much for having the courage to post here. I hope Alfie is getting better now, and from my experience of the excellent fracture care offered at St. Helier, he will be well on the road to recovery soon. One particular surgeon there who I know looks after injuries like Alfie's is not only an excellent surgeon, but also very nice with the kids who are almost invariably terrified out of their wits at the time. He, the hospital, you and probably most of all Little Alfie should be applauded. And I understand why you would be cross that the Ambulance took so long to not arrive, the only observation I would make there is that it's almost certainly not the "fault" of the LAS staff themselves - rather it is penny pinching, and underfunding to which they, and indeed most of the NHS now face which is responsible for things like this. Once more, thank goodness for St. Helier and Queen Mary's! Forty_two
  • Score: 6

4:58pm Thu 4 Sep 14

Forty_two says...

Onelife wrote:
I did ring 999 to cancel the ambulance
Now, given the circumstances, and everything else which was going on at the time, you really do deserve a medal for that alone!
[quote][p][bold]Onelife[/bold] wrote: I did ring 999 to cancel the ambulance[/p][/quote]Now, given the circumstances, and everything else which was going on at the time, you really do deserve a medal for that alone! Forty_two
  • Score: 6

5:00pm Thu 4 Sep 14

Onelife says...

Alfie got to have another op to take the 2 pins out in a week and another 3-4 in cast
Alfie got to have another op to take the 2 pins out in a week and another 3-4 in cast Onelife
  • Score: 2

5:05pm Thu 4 Sep 14

Forty_two says...

Countdooku wrote:
I'm not blaming the patient, but you're missing my point, St Helier is five minutes away and would cost under £10 in a cab which in the circumstances would mean nothing if I needed to get to the hospital, Clearly if they hadn't turned up after 20 minutes, you'd go by other means, the LAS are vastly under-staffed and although our taxes do pay for this service sometimes they just can't cope, would you wait 1 hour for your dinner in a restaurant or just walk out?
Sorry Countdooku, but yours is a flippant and offensive remark.

What if the patient did not have £10 on her person at the time, is she supposed to get the minicab to stop at an ATM while en-route? Alternatively, what if she didn't have £10 to spare?

To say that ten pounds "would mean nothing" is very easy to say if you happen to have ten pounds.

This is quite aside from the now stated explanation that the LAS call centre had advised that the patient should stay still and not be moved.
[quote][p][bold]Countdooku[/bold] wrote: I'm not blaming the patient, but you're missing my point, St Helier is five minutes away and would cost under £10 in a cab which in the circumstances would mean nothing if I needed to get to the hospital, Clearly if they hadn't turned up after 20 minutes, you'd go by other means, the LAS are vastly under-staffed and although our taxes do pay for this service sometimes they just can't cope, would you wait 1 hour for your dinner in a restaurant or just walk out?[/p][/quote]Sorry Countdooku, but yours is a flippant and offensive remark. What if the patient did not have £10 on her person at the time, is she supposed to get the minicab to stop at an ATM while en-route? Alternatively, what if she didn't have £10 to spare? To say that ten pounds "would mean nothing" is very easy to say if you happen to have ten pounds. This is quite aside from the now stated explanation that the LAS call centre had advised that the patient should stay still and not be moved. Forty_two
  • Score: 3

8:15am Fri 5 Sep 14

cat1kids2 says...

Glad the little boy is on the mend x
Do you all remember the C4 programme 999 What's your emergency?
I was speechless at the way ambulance services are used by drunk / drugged people that are so out of it they are taken VIA ambulances to hospital, they were peeing/pooing/vomiti
ng in the ambulances which are then taken out of action whilst they are cleaned, one crew said that of 12 calls they did on their shift that 9 were because of these people!
This is surely why the ambulance services are struggling, not just the LAS but ambulance services all over the country.
999 is for emergencies !
Glad the little boy is on the mend x Do you all remember the C4 programme 999 What's your emergency? I was speechless at the way ambulance services are used by drunk / drugged people that are so out of it they are taken VIA ambulances to hospital, they were peeing/pooing/vomiti ng in the ambulances which are then taken out of action whilst they are cleaned, one crew said that of 12 calls they did on their shift that 9 were because of these people! This is surely why the ambulance services are struggling, not just the LAS but ambulance services all over the country. 999 is for emergencies ! cat1kids2
  • Score: 6

8:52pm Fri 5 Sep 14

imasumak says...

This is NOT an Ambulance Service! By it's very nature a genuine Ambulance Service has failed it's reason for being if it does not respond to "Any" emergency call immediately and promptly. "Life Threatening" cannot be a criteria which leaves a patient with a severe condition or serious injury without " immediate" help. This is barbaric and no responsible government would allow such a situation to exist.
This is NOT an Ambulance Service! By it's very nature a genuine Ambulance Service has failed it's reason for being if it does not respond to "Any" emergency call immediately and promptly. "Life Threatening" cannot be a criteria which leaves a patient with a severe condition or serious injury without " immediate" help. This is barbaric and no responsible government would allow such a situation to exist. imasumak
  • Score: 0

9:41pm Fri 5 Sep 14

Sandy46 says...

I am glad the little boy is making a good recovery, I live in Sutton and had a similar scary experience. My husband had a diabetic hypo in our home about three months ago, I called an ambulance when he wasn't responding and tried getting him to drink a sugary drink but he was too far gone. His sugar level reading was extremely low, I called for help at about 8.45 pm and at 9.30 no help had arrive. I was also asked if his breathing was ok while I waited for help. I was also left with a recording of instructions while frantic and waiting. I had an idea to put a straw in my husbands mouth and told him to suck up the drink. Luckily he responded, it took another 10 mins to bring him around , I also had two very worried children with me.. Sill no ambulance, I called to cancel and complained he was nearly in dreadful trouble if he had not started sucking, , A very stressed and apologetic controller said they had no ambulances to send ! there was no major disaster in Sutton that evening I was aware off, Sorry to bore everyone with all these details but people need to realize this is happening. I f my children had been alone with their father the outcome could have been a lot different..
I am glad the little boy is making a good recovery, I live in Sutton and had a similar scary experience. My husband had a diabetic hypo in our home about three months ago, I called an ambulance when he wasn't responding and tried getting him to drink a sugary drink but he was too far gone. His sugar level reading was extremely low, I called for help at about 8.45 pm and at 9.30 no help had arrive. I was also asked if his breathing was ok while I waited for help. I was also left with a recording of instructions while frantic and waiting. I had an idea to put a straw in my husbands mouth and told him to suck up the drink. Luckily he responded, it took another 10 mins to bring him around , I also had two very worried children with me.. Sill no ambulance, I called to cancel and complained he was nearly in dreadful trouble if he had not started sucking, , A very stressed and apologetic controller said they had no ambulances to send ! there was no major disaster in Sutton that evening I was aware off, Sorry to bore everyone with all these details but people need to realize this is happening. I f my children had been alone with their father the outcome could have been a lot different.. Sandy46
  • Score: 3

11:44am Tue 9 Sep 14

BoobSMcGee says...

Moan moan moan moan moan, cue picture of mother looking unhappy, moan moan moan moan moan. I hardly class a broken arm as being a medical emergency. I once broke my arm at Streatham Ice Rink. My Dad decided to drive me all the way to Epsom, and yes they kept us waiting for a good couple of hours. I was young. Just lay on the back of the car seat, supporting my arm with my other hand. Yes, the emergency services are underfunded, but surely they have to prioritise and a broken arm for me, would be way down the list
Moan moan moan moan moan, cue picture of mother looking unhappy, moan moan moan moan moan. I hardly class a broken arm as being a medical emergency. I once broke my arm at Streatham Ice Rink. My Dad decided to drive me all the way to Epsom, and yes they kept us waiting for a good couple of hours. I was young. Just lay on the back of the car seat, supporting my arm with my other hand. Yes, the emergency services are underfunded, but surely they have to prioritise and a broken arm for me, would be way down the list BoobSMcGee
  • Score: 0

11:49am Tue 9 Sep 14

Onelife says...

BoobSMcGee wrote:
Moan moan moan moan moan, cue picture of mother looking unhappy, moan moan moan moan moan. I hardly class a broken arm as being a medical emergency. I once broke my arm at Streatham Ice Rink. My Dad decided to drive me all the way to Epsom, and yes they kept us waiting for a good couple of hours. I was young. Just lay on the back of the car seat, supporting my arm with my other hand. Yes, the emergency services are underfunded, but surely they have to prioritise and a broken arm for me, would be way down the list
U for real my boy is only 2 yrs old
[quote][p][bold]BoobSMcGee[/bold] wrote: Moan moan moan moan moan, cue picture of mother looking unhappy, moan moan moan moan moan. I hardly class a broken arm as being a medical emergency. I once broke my arm at Streatham Ice Rink. My Dad decided to drive me all the way to Epsom, and yes they kept us waiting for a good couple of hours. I was young. Just lay on the back of the car seat, supporting my arm with my other hand. Yes, the emergency services are underfunded, but surely they have to prioritise and a broken arm for me, would be way down the list[/p][/quote]U for real my boy is only 2 yrs old Onelife
  • Score: 2

12:09pm Tue 9 Sep 14

Onelife says...

If only u could see the X-ray it's not the lower part of his arm it's the bone connected from the shoulder to the elbow broke in half!!!
If only u could see the X-ray it's not the lower part of his arm it's the bone connected from the shoulder to the elbow broke in half!!! Onelife
  • Score: 1

11:09am Fri 12 Sep 14

Danny Bhoy says...

I don't think it is fair to criticise the Mum, she has a right to expect the ambulance to turn up quicker than that.

But a case like this would be classified as urgent care by the NHS, so would still have gone to St Helier if the old BSBV plans had gone ahead. It isn't a life-threatening emergency, but is urgent that he is seen.
I don't think it is fair to criticise the Mum, she has a right to expect the ambulance to turn up quicker than that. But a case like this would be classified as urgent care by the NHS, so would still have gone to St Helier if the old BSBV plans had gone ahead. It isn't a life-threatening emergency, but is urgent that he is seen. Danny Bhoy
  • Score: 3
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