A MAN with a head injury was left lying in a Henley road for more than half an hour waiting for an ambulance to arrive.
A trainee vet gave first aid to the injured man in Gravel Hill in the early hours of Sunday morning while an ambulance crew from Reading tried to locate where they were.
When they finally arrived, one of the paramedics appeared to tell off one of the people who had been trying to help the man, who was later taken to the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading.
One of the main helpers has criticised the amount of time it took for the ambulance to arrive.
Student Matthew Parker, 22, said: “It was a long time to be waiting and quite frustrating. I was quite surprised because the operator kept saying, ‘I don’t know how long the ambulance will be, I don’t deal with dispatches’.”
He and his girlfriend Lisa-Marie Evans had been to the Regal cinema and were driving back to his parents’ house in Blounts Court Road, Peppard Common, at about midnight when they noticed a car parked in Gravel Hill with its hazard lights on. Then they saw the man asleep in the road.
Mr Parker said: “The man had a big cut on the back of his head and there was a lot of blood. I had never seen anything like it before.
“My first thought was perhaps he had been attacked because it was a strange place to be and you don’t really see people walking up there.”
Miss Evans, 23, who is studying veterinary science at the University of Bristol, approached the man.
Mr Parker said: “As a trainee vet, she is kind of used to that kind of situation. She put pressure on the cut on his head and tried to stop him from moving.
“It was clear that the man had been to the pub as his speech was a bit slurred and we thought he had hit his head on the kerb. He couldn’t remember his name initially but he got better as time went on. By the end, he was chatting to us and being quite funny.”
Other motorists had stopped to direct traffic and someone had called an ambulance and handed the phone to Miss Evans but she couldn’t hold it while helping the man so Mr Parker took it and spoke to the emergency operator.
He said: “I believe that whoever had called the ambulance first didn’t quite know where they were and said they were on the road between Henley and Sonning Common.
“It wasn’t until about 20 minutes later that I was asked exactly where we were and that I could then give them the location.
“I didn’t know that the ambulance was lost and didn’t have the right information but it took them a while to ask for the information again.
“It took a good half-hour for them to arrive after I had given them a specific location.”
The operator asked questions about the man’s condition and told the couple to keep him still and to “hold tight”.
Mr Parker said: “The man was getting aggravated about having to lie in the road and eventually he did stand up.”
When the two paramedics arrived, one of them accused a man who was using his mobile phone to light the scene of trying to film the injured man.
Mr Parker said: “The ambulance guy went straight over to him and made a fuss about him filming it. You would think that they would go straight to the casualty.
“They didn’t want to hear from us and they dragged the man into the ambulance and dealt with him for about 10 minutes.
“It was a kind of surreal and we didn’t know what to do but we stayed behind and later on they talked to us and thanked us.”
The paramedics told the couple that they could not be kept informed of the injured man’s condition due to patient confidentially but suggested they passed on their contact details in case he wanted to contact them himself to say thank you.
The man, who seemed confused and dazed, told the couple his name was Nick James and that he was from Cornwall but was living in Bedfordshire.
Mr Parker, who is a lighting design student at Cardiff University, said it would have been useful to have had police on the scene.
“I know that the ambulance and the police service are miles apart but there should be some direct communication between them in these sort of situations,” he said.
“You would think that on a Saturday night, when you have police cars parked in town, that there would be somebody who could deal with this kind of situation.
“We didn’t see any police until right at the end when a car must have just been patrolling the area.”
Mr Parker said it would also have helped if there was an accident and emergency department at Townlands Hospital.
He said: “Travel time is a key factor and Townlands is less than half a mile away so an ambulance could have been there a lot quicker.
“Without being dramatic, it could have been a matter of life or death because 45 minutes is a long time.”
South Central Ambulance Service confirmed it had received a call at 11.34pm to attend an incident on an unnamed road in Badgemore and the nearest available ambulance was dispatched.
The incident was categorised as a Red 8, which means an ambulance should been on the scene in eight minutes, based on the nature of the patient’s injuries.
In a statement, the service said: “When a caller phones we ask for a specific location. On this occasion the location given was unclear. The callers knew the area but not the exact location where they were.
“After a while on the phone to the callers we were able to obtain the co-ordinates, which narrowed down where we were heading to but not a specific location.
“The crew were dispatched a minute into the call and all the while were on route to the general area. The crew arrived at the first location in 16 minutes.
“Twenty minutes into the call we spoke to a third caller who was able to give a better location and the crew were directed there. The ambulance crew arrived on scene 32 minutes after the initial call.
“We do our upmost to get to our patients as soon as possible based on the information given by the caller and we would like to thank the callers for everything they did to ensure we arrived on scene as soon as we could.
“We apologise that on this occasion we did not arrive on scene as quickly as we would like and we would like to wish the patient a speedy recovery.”
An NHS England Thames Valley Area Team spokeswoman said: “Evidence shows large, centralised accident and emergency departments are the best place to be treated for serious and life-threatening conditions.
“Henley is close to a number of acute hospitals and a regional trauma centre at the Oxford University Hospital and there is a well-established minor injuries unit at Townlands Hospital.”