AN 84-YEAR-OLD woman with a broken ankle was left lying on a pavement for four-and-a-half hours awaiting an ambulance.

Josephine Gamble fell in Bridge Street, Christchurch, at around 3pm on Christmas Eve, but paramedics didn’t arrive until 7.30pm, and she then faced a further 10 hours at the Royal Bournemouth Hospital before being transferred to Poole Hospital for surgery in the early hours of the morning.

Over the past few weeks both hospitals and the South Western Ambulance Service have been struggling with what the Royal College of Emergency Medicine has called "serious and sustained pressure".

NHS figures released last week showed patients waited more than half-an-hour in ambulances outside A&E in Bournemouth and Poole on more than 200 occasions last month.

The problem is exacerbated by the use of hospitals as temporary care or residential accommodation where such facilities are no longer available in the community, leading to bed-blocking.

Mrs Gamble has since received surgery to her ankle, which was broken in two places.

Daughter Corinne Figg, who lives in Bournemouth, said: "I was on my way to meet mum anyway, but then I got a call saying she'd fallen and hurt her ankle.

"When I got there she was on the ground with a man propping her up.

"People had already called for an ambulance, but the call handler said not to move her in case she'd hurt her hip as well.

"She couldn't lie back either because she was in so much pain."

Kind-hearted passers-by brought blankets and hot water bottles for Mrs Gamble, and tea for Mrs Figg. However, her mother was unable to drink anything as the ambulance service call-taker said surgery may be required.

Police were also at the scene, with one officer waiting alongside Mrs Gamble for the full stretch.

Mrs Figg said: "The police were absolutely amazing, I can't say enough about them.

"At one point, specially-trained officers brought along cylinders of gas and air for mum because the ambulance still hadn't arrived and she was in terrible pain.

"She kept wanting to sleep and they were with me, talking to her to keep her awake.

"It was a very emotional, draining situation for everyone.

"The police were very concerned and at one point they were saying they wanted to get mum in one of their cars and take her to hospital themselves."

When paramedics arrived, Mrs Gamble faced another long delay at hospital.

Mrs Figg said: "It was so busy, people were queuing in ambulances outside.

"The paramedics were great, and I'm not being critical of them, but I wanted to tell mum's story because I know this type of thing is something that's happening more and more often now."

Earlier, on December 11, a 71-year-old woman reportedly suffered "absolute agony" with a dislocated hip during an eight hour wait for an ambulance to take her to Poole. Daughter Debbie McCrossan, 52, from Bournemouth, said her mother arrived at the hospital at around 10pm and faced a further hour wait outside A&E.

The business analyst said the ordeal made her "feel so sick".

Ms McCrossan said: "They (ambulance staff) couldn't have been more apologetic, explaining they were ever so busy with people having strokes and heart attacks.

"As mum was 'responding appropriately' unfortunately she was not a priority.

"I sat with her the whole day and it was absolute agony for her each time she moved."

She said once inside A&E both she and her daughter had to help with the bedpan owing to a lack of staff.

Her mother had an operation the next morning, then spent two days recovering before going home.

Ms McCrossan added: "I can't fault Poole A&E for the service, it was abundantly clear they were completely rushed off their feet.

"I feel so sick about this whole experience. I find it scary.

"In 2014 I had breast cancer and the NHS were wonderful and I know the doctors and nurses work tirelessly to give patients the best care but I fear they are climbing a slippery slope and we are on the verge of having a third world health service."