A Beccles woman endured a 12-hour ordeal waiting for a hospital bed after falling and breaking her hip at home.
Dawn Durrant spent five hours waiting for an ambulance to pick her up after calling for help in the early hours of December 23.
When the ambulance finally arrived, the 65-year-old woman was waiting to be taken to a bed at James Paget University Hospital.
However, after arriving at Gorleston hospital, he was told there were no beds available.
Instead, Ms Durrant had to be treated in the ambulance parked in the car park for seven hours, during which time she was driven back and forth to the hospital for scans.
A bed finally became available just after 3:00 pm
A spokesman for the Norfolk and Waveney Integrated Care System (NWICS) said the local health service, including Paget’s, was experiencing “extremely high levels of demand”.
It occurs when health chiefs warn that the region’s health and care system is under “extreme pressure” due to high demand, increasing staff illness levels and bed blockages.
Detailing her ordeal, Ms Durrant, who has mobility issues, said she felt guilty about wasting valuable time for the ambulance service.
“These ambulance drivers should be somewhere else, taking care of people in emergencies, without having to take care of me,” he added.
“I felt guilty being in an ambulance for so long because I felt like I was taking up someone else’s time.
“The ambulance staff had to help me from the ambulance into the parking lot for an X-ray and back. They then kindly asked me if I was hungry and took me to eat something and then back to the ambulance.
“We waited for my CT scan and the friendly ambulance staff took me to it. Finally, after seven hours, a bed became available.”
Praising the health and care staff, Ms Durrant called on the government to increase funding for the NHS.
“Hospitals are very understaffed and it’s not their fault,” he added. “They are all so lovely and work so hard.
“I’m not complaining about the health service because it’s fantastic, but it needs help from the government.”
The NWICS, which oversees health and care services throughout the area, said a number of factors were making it difficult to run the system.
The spokesperson said: “Our health and care system is experiencing extremely high levels of demand.
“We are seeing a large number of very sick people; ongoing challenges in discharging patients well enough to leave the hospital to build capacity for incoming patients; and an increase in staff illnesses.
“This means longer waits than we would like for patients, as well as an increase in seasonal illnesses like the flu, norovirus and covid-19.”
Peter Aldous, MP for Waveney, said the winter months were “always a test” for the health service.
With Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s recent budget promising more funding for the NHS, Aldous was confident the tension would soon ease.
“For the past few years, James Paget has outperformed most hospitals across the country in dealing with the pressures of the winter season,” he added.
“But after the pandemic, there has been a huge backlog of operations and people’s conditions have gotten worse.
“And as we come out of the pandemic, people are more confident going to hospitals, but COVID is still a problem and we are currently experiencing a critical flu outbreak.
“In our area, we also have an aging population, so these winter months are always difficult.
“The NHS has received more funding than ever before in the Chancellor’s latest budget announcement and by strategically tackling workforce planning, I think we can cope.”
Aldous also said it would not be fair to conclude that nurses going on strike before Christmas had a negative impact on the availability of hospital treatment.
He added: “I have no evidence that the strikes over the Christmas period have affected treatment times, so it would be wrong to make any assumptions.
“These issues of wait times, the pandemic backlog, winter season demand and more are here regardless of the strikes.”