Woman died in Cardiff home after waiting ‘hours’ for ambulance

A woman suffering “severe” abdominal pain died after waiting more than two hours for an ambulance.

Maria Whale, 67, was at home in Cardiff on 29 June when husband John Whale dialled 999.

Mr Whale said the family had questioned whether his wife would have lived if help had come sooner.

The Welsh Ambulance Service said it has already started an investigation into what happened.

Mr Whale claimed they had waited “four to five” hours for an to ambulance to arrive.

The Welsh Ambulance Service said its records showed it was called at 02:10 BST before a paramedic arrived at 04:22 BST. An ambulance arrived at 04:35 BST.

This would be two-hours-and-25-minutes after the first call.

An inquest into Mrs Whale’s death has been opened and adjourned until October 2022.

Mr Whale said he “feels a lot of anger” about what happened.

He said he called 999 numerous times as his wife’s condition worsened, but claimed a call handler told him his wife was not a priority.

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“An investigation to determine what happened started earlier this month and given this is underway we are unable to comment further at this time.”

He said: “She said to me, ‘We have absolutely no resources available whatsoever. She’s not in our books a priority case’.

“I reported that back to Maria. To her, that was distressing.”

Mr Whale said he was instructed to answer questions about his wife’s condition in a “tick-box” process.

“I probably called back within half-an-hour of making the first call to say, ‘look things are getting much, much worse’,” he said.

“It was during the subsequent calls my wife was crying out in pain, and the call handler said, ‘Is that your wife crying out?’

“I said ‘Yes, she is’ and I was told ‘If she can cry like that then she’s not a priority’.

“That really hurt.”


John Whale


Mr Whale said he was asked if he could take his wife to hospital, about 10 minutes from his home in Llanishen, Cardiff.

“I would have loved to,” he said.

“I wish I could have done it, but it just wasn’t possible.

“She then said about sending for a taxi and I said, ‘How is that going to help, sending a medically untrained taxi driver?

“I know I couldn’t get her in the car, and what chance does an untrained taxi driver have of getting her in the car, which would cause her even more severe injury?”

A commitment, Mr Whale said, was given a paramedic would visit to check on Mrs Whale.

“When they arrived one of them started working on her, and the other one was on her phone calling for back-up, for an ambulance back-up.

“We were at a critical point there, and obviously what I was saying all along was true, that my wife wanted help, and nobody was there to provide it until they saw it with their own eyes.”

He said an ambulance arrived “eventually”.

“I have nothing but praise for all those people who attended. They did what they could, but she died at home. She didn’t get to hospital,” he said.

Mr Whale said his wife “a wonderful person” who was kind and gentle.

He said was frustrated because it was not the first time his wife had waited hours for an ambulance.

In 2018, BBC Wales reported Mrs Whale waited four hours for an ambulance after slipping and breaking her hip at a service station near Builth Wells, Powys.


Lee Brooks, director of operations at the Welsh Ambulance Service


“One of the factors we didn’t move out of Cardiff and back to mid-Wales was because, should we need help, we’re here in the capital city of Wales with better response times,” Mr Whale said.

“But now it feels like it’s no better than living in the back of beyond. I know times are difficult and I know things are difficult, but we feel let down.

“It’s like being struck by lightning twice.”

Welsh Ambulance operations director, Lee Brooks, said: “We are deeply sorry to hear about the passing of Mrs Whale and would like to extend our thoughts and deepest sympathies to her loved ones.

“An investigation to determine what happened started earlier this month and given this is underway we are unable to comment further at this time.”

Mr Brooks said the service would “welcome” the chance to speak with the family “when the time is right”.

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