WHEN the call went out in church “Is there a doctor in the house?” no one expected six — including the priest — to come to the rescue of a pensioner who had broken his hip.
And perhaps it was just as well they all did, as the 93-year-old patient had to lie where he fell for 12 hours before paramedics arrived at Christ Church, Bath. He then endured a four-hour wait in his ambulance to get into A&E.
“We were furious; incandescent,” said the Priest-in-Charge, the Revd Lore Chumbley, who has a previous career as a plastic surgeon. “My lay Reader was so furious he took it to Bath Council, where he is a member, and they are writing to the Health Secretary. He felt it just was not good enough.”
Besides Ms Chumbley, the medical team included the church organist, David Winters, who is a senior A&E doctor; a retired consultant surgeon; three GPs; and another retired doctor.
Their patient and his wife had been attending an evening concert on 20 March, when he fell during the interval. “I saw it happen,” Ms Chumbley said. “He turned, and his leg gave way underneath him. He just crumpled to the floor. He was in a lot of pain. Our general diagnosis was that he had broken his hip, and the consensus was that he could not be moved — we didn’t want to put something out of place.
“The conductor asked him if he should cancel the rest of the concert, but he was happy for it to carry on. Indeed, he clapped at the end.”
After the concert, Ms Chumbley kept the church open and the heating on, and gave him paracetamol and ibuprofen. “We set up a proper chart so we didn’t give him too much of it,” she said. “Every time he moved, even a millimetre, his bone clicked; he was literally lying as he fell. We surrounded him with hassocks to keep him in place and comfortable. I don’t think he slept a wink, he just talked quietly with his wife.
“We kept offering cups of tea — we are English. We also managed some toast for his wife for breakfast.
“ About 1 a.m., I rang 999 again to check to see if they knew he was lying on a church floor and was 93, and asked how long they were going to be. They were polite and helpful, but not apologetic; this was just standard for them. They couldn’t say how long they would be.
“At about 6.30, I lit candles in our side chapel, and he asked if I was going to do morning prayers. I asked if he would like to pray — I didn’t want to impose on him — he hadn’t chosen to fall over in church. So we said prayers, including asking for the ambulance to come, and lo and behold, 20 minutes later one appeared.
“He has since sent us a message saying he is progressing, but he is going to be in hospital for quite a long time.”
She said that she had not found the situation bizarre. “I am used to dealing with people in pain because they have broken something,” she said.
In a statement, the South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust said: “We are sorry that, due to the health and social-care system being under severe pressure, some patients are having to wait longer for an ambulance. One of the reasons is the length of time it’s taking us to hand over patients into busy hospitals. We are working closely with NHS partners to address these delays; so our crews can get back out on the road for other patients.
“However, even with the additional resources we are making available, the number of ambulances currently waiting for prolonged periods of time at emergency departments inevitably impacts our ability to respond to patients.”