A man who called 999 in agony after suffering a gallbladder attack was told he'd have to wait 10 hours if he wanted an ambulance.
Timothy Branson was in his Bedford home when he felt horrific pain.
Ironically, he was due to see his doctor next month about his gallstones - but when he began to feel ill, he made the call.
He told Bedford Today: "I was in excruciating pain and I rang 999. They said 'we can't send an ambulance'."
As the pain kept going and coming back, he decided to call again.
"I rang them back and at this point I was crying down the phone - I was in so much pain."
And it was only then that he received the shocking news.
Timothy said: "They then told me 'we can send you an ambulance - but not for another 10 HOURS'.
"I explained I was a vulnerable adult but they didn't listen and they hung up on me."
The 53-year-old by this point was gasping for air and called a taxi which took him to the hospital.
And it was only once he was admitted, he was given more shocking news when one of the surgeons told him if he had left it any longer, "it could have been fatal".
But Timothy added: "I cannot fault the nurses at Bedford Hospital - but now whenever I hear adverts saying 'in the event of an emergency, call 999', I just laugh to myself."
An East of England Ambulance Service spokesman said: “We would like to apologise for any distress caused and invite the patient to contact us directly so that we can look into the specifics of this case.”
Ambulance response times have been hitting the headlines lately with the service severely stretched
Hospitals are also reporting problems with handover delays, with ambulances having to wait, meaning patients aren't being admitted quickly enough.
According to East of England Ambulance Service's own website when a patient is considered category one (immediately life threatening injuries and illnesses) patients will be responded to in seven minutes, and within 15 minutes at least nine out of 10 times.
For category two (emergency), an ambulance is expected to respond in an average time of 18 minutes, and within 40 minutes at least nine out of 10 times.
East of England Ambulance Trust (EEAST) chief executive Tom Abell told the trust board last week (November 10) that some ambulances have had to wait more than five hours down the road at Lister Hospital in Stevenage – with up to 10 ambulances waiting at the emergency department at once.
Board members were also told of three ‘poor’ experiences across the EEAST region.
In the first example a patient – who had a punctured lung – was reported to have laid face-down on the floor for SEVEN HOURS until an ambulance arrived to take him to hospital.
In the second a stroke patient waited NINE HOURS – from 10pm to 7am – for an ambulance to arrive, despite six calls to the ambulance service.
And in the third example it was reported to have taken an hour for an ambulance to arrive at the scene of a ‘category 1’ call – when crews found THE PATIENT HAD DIED.
He said: "Board members will be as concerned and distressed as I am at the impact that this current situation is having on our ability to deliver the standard of care and I am extremely sorry to those patients, families and colleagues which have been affected.”
In addition to handover delays, he pointed to factors such as staff sickness and demands for the service, particularly by the number of falls.