A KIRKCALDY man who begged for help after collapsing with blood poisoning was refused an ambulance - five times.
Horrified neighbours discovered John Dougall - a former international swimmer - slumped on his doorstep after he was forced to crawl on his hands and knees for assistance.
“He was doubled up on the floor and clearly in agony; in so much pain he couldn’t bear to be touched,“ said neighbour Lisa Farrell,
“We were concerned he was dying - it was blind panic.””
The 36 year-old, who coaches the Fife Performance Swim Squad, experienced acute stomach pains at his flat at Williamson Quay three weeks ago.
On the verge of collapse, he called 999 for an ambulance.
“They asked me the usual questions and basically asked if I had been drinking. I told them no, none of that and explained I lived on my own, that I couldn’t move. I needed help, I was in a really bad way but they said my symptoms wouldn’t warrant any help.”
According to John, they advised NHS 24 would call back within two hours and when he stressed he was “in agony” the call handler replied: “but you are able to speak to us”.
An hour later in a call with NHS 24, he was advised to take some painkillers.
John said: “I told them this was starting to scare me now. There‘s sweat pouring from me and burning coming from my chest and abdomen. I pleaded for an ambulance but they said they would get a nurse to ring me in the next couple of hours to go through treatment options with me.”
Desperate, John crawled to his front door where neighbours happened to be passing.
Horrified, they immediately rang 999 but were refused assistance.
Another neighbour tried again and claims the handler was rude to the point where the neighbour asked for identification but the handler withheld their name and an ambulance before hanging up on them.
“We just felt helpless and didn’t know what to do,” said Lisa Farrell, “their attitude left us disgusted.”
Yet another neighbour called police who agreed to request an ambulance, but they too were knocked back.
Left with little choice, neighbours drove John to Victoria Hospital.
“There was an ambulance waiting at the door and when the paramedic saw me he just grabbed me and took me into A&E,” he said.
“They found I had a perforated bowel and was heavily septic. If I had stayed at home that night it would have been curtains for me.”
He was hospitalised for twelve days and is still recovering at home.
“It’s when you sit down and take stock. I’ve never phoned for an ambulance in my life. I really needed help and to not get it was ridiculous,” he commented.
A spokesman for the Scottish Ambulance Service told the Press all 999 calls were clinically triaged based upon information provided by the caller.
“In this instance the patient’s described symptoms did not indicate the need for an emergency ambulance at that time,“ he said.
“This was discussed with a neighbour who called and also agreed with the police.
“At no time did a call taker hang up the phone during any of the calls.”
He added: “To date we have not received a complaint about this matter but would be happy to discuss the details with the patient.”
NHS 24 Medical Director Professor George Crooks said patient safety was the first priority for NHS 24.
“We would welcome the opportunity to discuss any concerns this patient may have directly with him.”