A woman from Beccles endured a 12-hour ordeal waiting for a hospital bed after falling and fracturing 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 hoped she would be taken to a bed at the James Paget University Hospital.
However, after arriving at the hospital in Gorleston, she was told no beds were available.
Instead, Mrs Durrant had to be treated in the stationary ambulance in the car park for seven hours, during which time she was taken back and forth into the hospital for scans.
A bed finally became available just after 3pm.
A spokesman for the Norfolk and Waveney Integrated Care System (NWICS) said the local health service, including the Paget, was experiencing “extremely high levels of demand”.
It comes as health bosses warn that the region’s health and care system is coming under “extreme pressure” due to high demand, rising staff sickness levels and bed blocking.
Detailing her ordeal, Mrs Durrant, who has mobility issues, said she felt guilty about wasting the ambulance service’s precious time.
“These ambulance drivers should be somewhere else, attending to people in emergency situations – not having to nurse me,” she added.
“I felt guilty for being in an ambulance for so long because I felt like I was taking up someone else’s time.
“The ambulance staff had to assist me from the ambulance in the car park for an X-ray and back. Then, they kindly asked if I was hungry and took me to get a bite to eat and then back to the ambulance.
“We waited for my CT scan and the kind ambulance staff then took me for that. Then finally, after seven hours, a bed became available.”
Heaping praise on health and care staff, Mrs Durrant called on the government to increase NHS funding.
“The hospitals are so short-staffed and it isn’t their fault,” she added. “They are all so lovely and working so hard.
“I am not complaining about the health service because it is fantastic, but it needs help from the government.”
READ MORE: Dr Tim Morton warns of pressures in region’s GP surgeries
The NWICS, which oversees health and care services across the area, said a number of factors were making it difficult for the system to cope.
The spokesman said: “Our health and care system is experiencing extremely high levels of demand.
“We are seeing large numbers of very unwell people; ongoing challenges in discharging patients who are well enough to leave the hospital to create capacity for patients coming in; and an increase in staff sickness.
“This means longer waits than we would like for patients, as well as an increase in seasonal illnesses such as flu, norovirus and Covid-19.”
Peter Aldous, MP for Waveney, said the winter months were “always testing” for the health service.
With chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s recent budget pledging more funding for the NHS, Mr Aldous was confident that the strain would soon be eased.
“Over the last few years, the James Paget has performed better than most hospitals across the country when dealing with the pressure that the winter season incurs,” he added.
“But after the pandemic, there has been a huge backlog of operations and people’s conditions have worsened.
“And as we move out of the pandemic, people are more confident in attending hospitals, but COVID is still an issue and we are currently experiencing a critical flu outbreak.
“In our area, we also have an aging population, so these winter months are always testing.
“The NHS has received more funding than ever in the chancellor’s last budget announcement and, through strategically addressing the workforce planning, I think we can cope.”
Mr Aldous also said it would not be fair to conclude that nurses going on strike before Christmas had detrimentally impacted the availability of hospital treatment.
He added: “I do not have evidence that the strikes over the Christmas period have impacted treatment times, so it would be wrong to make any assumptions.
“These problems of waiting times, the backlog from the pandemic, the winter season demand and more, are here regardless of the strikes.”