Ambulance bosses have today apologised after an elderly woman was left lying on the ground in agony with a broken shoulder for more than half an hour before help arrived.
A concerned passer-by rang the 999 emergency number three times while others struggled to keep the woman warm where she lay, unable to move, in St Annes Square.
It took 39 minutes for the ambulance to arrive because paramedics were too busy dealing with an influx of higher priority cases.
North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) said the woman was classed as “green two” priority – the lowest that requires a vehicle response – and should have been seen within half an hour.
Tony Curtis, who stopped to help after the lady fell and injured herself in the town centre, said it was “inhumane” to force a woman in her 80s to wait so long to be treated.
The 52-year-old, of Cambridge Road, Lytham, said: “It was too long for an old lady to be lying on the ground in pain and shivering.
“In my book, that should take priority – people are very vulnerable at that age.”
Another passer-by covered her with a blanket and lay beside her as they waited for paramedics to arrive.
Mr Curtis added: “You could see she was in pain and her husband was distressed.
“She wasn’t talking much and when the paramedics arrived they put her on oxygen for five or six minutes before they even thought about moving her. Another 15 minutes and it could have been a different story.”
He criticised the decision to class the incident as a low priority and raised concerns patients are not being seen quickly enough because the service is too stretched.
The Gazette reported in May that residents in Fylde and Wyre have to wait longer for an ambulance than their neighbours in Blackpool, sparking fears of a “postcode lottery”.
Mr Curtis added: “I’ve got nothing but kind words for the two paramedics who were on duty.
“They did their jobs so professionally – they comforted her and gave her oxygen – but they can only do that when they get there.”
The woman was taken to Blackpool Victoria Hospital following the incident at around 10.40am on Tuesday.
Mr Curtis said he has since spoken to her husband, who said she is now recovering from a broken shoulder and collar bone.
NWAS said the ambulance was first requested at 10.41am and arrived at 11.20am. It said a high number of top priority “red one” jobs in the area at the time probably contributed to slow response.
A spokesman added: “We are sorry about the delay”.
The latest figures show NWAS is hitting its response time targets for the most serious cases although a recent study shows there is still significant variation within Lancashire. Response times for “green” priority calls are not routinely published.