A coroner is calling for action after a man died when our ambulance service took 10 hours to respond to an emergency call that should have been responded to within 18 minutes.

Following the conclusion of Michael Vincent's inquest, Bedfordshire's assistant coroner Sean Cummings has written to the East of England Ambulance Service (EEAS) to call for action to prevent future deaths.

Mr Vincent, 79, died in hospital on December 20 last year. He had fallen at home the morning before, and remained on the floor until admittance to A&E at about 5.32am on December 20. 

Having been on the floor for some hours, Mr Vincent called the ambulance service at around 7.29pm on December 19. The call was allocated Category 2, which aims to have an urgent response within an 18-minute time frame.

However, at the time of Mr Vincent's 999 call, 146 Category 2 calls were waiting for an ambulance - an unprecedented number.

"The EEAS was extremely busy that night, with previously unseen levels of Category 2 allocations of ambulances," Mr Cummings says in his Prevention of Future Deaths Report.

"In addition, the hospitals in the area were queuing ambulances outside emergency departments. They were unable to offload patients and then proceed to other calls."

It led to a 10-hour delay in the ambulance service responding to Mr Vincent, during which time Mr Vincent had a cardiac arrest.

The ambulance service missed its 18-minute response target by "an enormous margin", Mr Cummings noted, adding that "there is a strong possibility, even arguably a probability, that another frail, elderly individual will have the same experience".

He said: "On the balance of probabilities, it is likely that, had he been admitted at the time of the first call, [Mr Vincent] would not have died at the time he did."

Mr Cummings continued: "Long lie after a fall, especially in the elderly often results in a terminal kidney injury and death.

"Consideration should be given to review of how these types of emergency call are managed and thereafter monitored.

"In my opinion action should be taken to prevent future deaths."

The EEAS must respond to the coroner by January 2 with details of action taken or proposed to be taken, setting out the timetable for action.

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A spokesperson for the East of England Ambulance Service said: "We would like to offer our apologies to Mr Vincent’s family for our delayed response.

"Unfortunately, at the time of the call we were experiencing a high number of 999 calls, with 146 Category 2 calls waiting for an ambulance.

"In the Hertfordshire area alone, there were 19 Category 2 calls outstanding.

"We were unable to dispatch ambulances to these patients as quickly as we would like as we had ambulances waiting at hospitals to hand over their patients for hospital care.

"Since the start of 2023, our response times have improved due to work to increase the number of frontline staff and available ambulances, but we recognise there is a lot more work needed by us and our partners to improve our response to patients.

"Our thoughts remain with Mr Vincent’s family and friends."