A mother has spoken of her shock after she dialled 999 for an ambulance for her choking baby - and was put on hold.
Kirsty Graves, who lives in North Trade Road in Battle, called for help after her 13-month old son Reggie Breach, who has Downs Syndrome, started choking on a small piece of plastic last Friday afternoon (June 24).
Kirsty said: “I have got four boys and one had an ice pole because it was quite hot.
“He cut the small bit of plastic off the top, it shot across the floor and I hadn’t seen it.
“Reggie had seen it and picked it up and put it in his mouth.
“I heard him coughing and spluttering.”
Kirsty, her husband and Reggie’s grandmother, a former nurse, tried to dislodge the plastic, but called 999 after Reggie started to turn blue.
However after choosing her required emergency service, Kirsty was shocked to be put on hold.
She said: “I have never heard of anyone being put on hold on 999 before, ever.
“I’m not the sort of person who panics easily.
“But when I was put on hold, I started to panic.
“By that time he was blue and was not breathing.”
Kirsty added: “It was a few minutes, but it felt like an eternity.
“Even a minute in my opinion is too long to be put on hold.”
In desperation, Kirsty put her fingers down Reggie’s throat, making him vomit, dislodging the plastic.
Luckily Reggie is none the worse for his ordeal.
Kirsty said: “We took him to the hospital afterwards because he was spitting up blood.
“His throat is a bit scratched up but he’s OK.”
Kirsty says she intends to complain about the incident.
A spokesperson for South East Coast Ambulance Service said: “We are very sorry for the distress caused by the delay in answering Ms Graves’ call for her son. We would be happy to discuss this matter further with her directly should she wish to do so.
“We aim to answer 95 percent of calls within five seconds and answer the huge majority of calls we receive without delay. However, demand placed upon our service and a recognised need to recruit further to this very demanding role in our Emergency Operations Centres means we are currently not always achieving this.
“We have an extremely focused plan to support high levels of recruitment to ensure the Trust can return to the high levels of service the public expect.
“We would like to remind callers that if they do face any delay in their call being answered they should not hang up as we will answer their call in order they are received.
“We do have procedures in place with BT 999 liaison to help them support callers and highlight to us any potential life-threatened patients waiting for the phone to be answered. BT will ask the caller if they are happy to wait in the queue for an answer and if not the BT operator will remain on the line for reassurance until we answer. On occasions calls are routed to neighbouring ambulance trusts as part of national resilience plans.”
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