The East of England Ambulance Service has apologised to an elderly Welwyn Garden City woman with Alzheimer's and her family, after she spent 10 hours in the back of an ambulance following a fall.

The 88-year-old fell at her care home on New Year's Eve and suffered a suspected broken wrist and nose.

An ambulance arrived and took her to Stevenage's Lister Hospital, but an agonising 10-hour wait in the back of the vehicle followed as she was not admitted following X-rays, much to the disappointment of her daughter, Nicola Kelly.

"Other than being walked through the rain to go for X-rays, she stayed in the ambulance and was never admitted to hospital," she told this newspaper.

"After the 10 hours, when they discharged her, there were still four ambulances ahead of theirs in the queue waiting to be admitted.

"This is the seventh time we’ve been to hospital this year and had to look in the back of ambulances for my mum.

"I have spent many an evening knocking on ambulances doors in the car park of Lister Hospital looking for my distressed mum. With Alzheimer's, she has no clue where she is or why she is there.

"We’ve said every time that she’s not to go to hospital unless it’s necessary, but paramedics said she needed to go because she had a suspected broken nose and wrist."

Less than an hour after returning to the care home, Nicola's mother had another fall, and a long wait ensued again.

An ambulance was called and it was confirmed she would be attended to despite initial refusals. After a 25-hour wait, paramedics arrived, but she was not taken to A&E.

As a retired nurse who worked at the former QEII Hospital in Welwyn Garden City, Nicola is "outraged" at the decline of the NHS and called on the government to do more for the service.

"I am outraged by the decline of standard of NHS care," she said.

“More nurses need to be employed. A&E has been like this for the past year.

"The NHS is in crisis and the government needs to sort it out. They need more staff, they need to train more people and pay them better wages to keep them.

"My concern is that this will happen to other people’s parents. After one of my mum's previous falls, she got a bleed on the brain and she has no existence in the state she’s in, she just sleeps all day. 

"The time before last, when we went to Lister, ambulances were actually queuing out on the road. The ambulance staff are spending their whole shift with one patient, and that’s just ridiculous."

In a statement, a spokesperson for the East of England Ambulance service apologised for the treatment Nicola's mother had received, but urged people to use the NHS wisely.

"We would like to apologise to the patient and her family for her experience," read the statement.

"When we received the first call we were able to respond within an hour. Unfortunately, at the time of the second call we were experiencing extreme demand on the service due to handover delays at hospitals which meant we had to prioritise immediately life-threatening emergencies and resulted in the delayed response. 

"Demand on the service over Christmas and New Year period was particularly extreme, but we have seen an improvement in our response times in the past few weeks as demand has fallen slightly.

"However, the NHS remains very challenged and we continue to ask the public to use our services wisely as we must prioritise those most in need."

The East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust, which runs Lister Hospital, added: "In keeping with the wider NHS, our emergency department saw very high attendances over the festive period, and this meant that waiting times were significantly higher than usual.

"We apologise for the distress this caused our patients and their families, and appreciate that in this case it would have been particularly confusing for the patient.

"We assess and treat patients in order of clinical priority, with frequent assessments during the day and night. Doctors assess and treat patients while they wait in ambulances where needed.

"We are working with other NHS organisations to support community care for those who do not need to be treated in hospital, to safely discharge patients faster, to improve patient flow and free up capacity within the emergency department.

"We have recently opened a new Ambulance Handover Unit and expanded our capacity to provide same day emergency care."