Ambulance response criticised after Wisbech rugby player lies injured on pitch for 30 minutes

A SERIOUSLY injured player was left lying on Wisbech’s rugby pitch for 30 minutes on Saturday, prompting fresh criticism of ambulance response times.

Scrum-half Tim Mason suffered an injury to his upper back and neck during the first half of Wisbech II’s clash with Beccles II at Harecroft Road.

First aiders, who could not move the player due to the nature of the injury, called an ambulance at about 3pm. But paramedics did not arrive at the ground until half an hour later as their last call had been in Swaffham - 27 miles away.

The rugby match had resumed on a neighbouring pitch before the ambulance arrived to treat Mr Mason for, what turned out to be, three bruised vertebrae.

Wisbech II captain Oliver Mackett said: “Tim was just lying there and he was obviously in a lot of pain. He looked seriously injured.

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“He was lying in the cold and we had to put stuff over him to keep him warm and wait for the ambulance to turn up. It wasn’t good enough.”

A spokesman for the East of England Ambulance Service Trust (EEAST) said paramedics needed “to get to patients whose lives are in immediate danger first to give them the best chance of survival”.

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The spokesman said: “In order to ensure this can happen it is necessary that other calls are prioritised for slightly longer waits such as this incident.

“This was correctly assessed by our call handler as ‘spinal pain with no indication of serious injury and the patient otherwise well’ for a target wait of 30 minutes.

“This was met having been called at 3pm with an arrival time of 3.30pm.”

The incident has sparked fresh criticism of ambulance response times in North East Cambridgeshire from MP Steve Barclay.

Mr Barclay said: “I have already highlighted concerns about the ambulance response times, including one incident in Chatteris where an elderly woman waited for two hours.”

The NE Cambs MP had previously written to EEAST asking them to investigate three incidents involving poor response times.

Hayden Newton, the service’s chief executive, announced his retirement last week.

Mr Barclay, who once played rugby for Wisbech himself, said Saturday’s incident left him “deeply concerned”.

“My background is very much around playing rugby,” he said. “My father has coached junior rugby for the last 39 years and was actually honoured in the New Year’s Honours List for his contribution.

“As someone who grew up around a rugby club, and whose brother was playing in a match when a team-mate was paralysed, I view this issue very seriously.

“I will be asking questions of the ambulance trust to understand what happened.”

He added: “There is also a wider issue, which is where are ambulances being sent from and why?”

The EEAST spokesman added that the prioritisation system for incidents is a national one which is “similar to how A&E hospital departments operate.”

“The eight-minute target only applies to immediately life-threatening incidents,” he said.

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