QUESTIONS have been asked of Sussex Police force’s resources after officers took almost two hours to respond to an emergency call in Rustington.
Residents living in Allangate Drive and Lawrence Avenue had become concerned that an 87-year-old woman may have been in a serious condition after her family and friends had been unable to contact her for more than a day.
The woman, who lives alone at her home in Lawrence Avenue, was not answering the phone or responding to the doorbell.
Neighbours became so concerned that at 3.50pm on Sunday afternoon (December 8), they dialled 999, fearing the worst.
They asked if a police officer could come and break down the door, to check on the pensioner.
Operators assured them that they would respond to the call as quickly as they could. However, almost two hours and four new calls later, no one had arrived.
Jackie Burlison, 64, of Allangate Drive, was one of five neighbours who raised their concerns.
She said: “I feel the response time was awful. It was totally unacceptable and unforgivable in this day and age, for an 87-year-old woman to be left on her own without help for two whole hours. In these two hours she could have died. It’s disgraceful.”
Officers arrived at 5.40pm and broke down the door to find the pensioner – who served with the Women’s Land Army – on the floor of her living room.
She was taken to Worthing Hospital where she remains seriously ill.
Jackie has now written to Worthing West MP Sir Peter Bottomley, urging him to investigate the incident.
Chief Inspector Pip Taylor, Arun district policing commander, apologised for the response time, explaining the team that was initially called was diverted to another emergency.
“Resources are not limitless and there are times, fortunately not too frequent, when several emergency calls for assistance are received within a short time span and when that happens, a decision has to be made as to which are the most urgent,” she said. “I understand the frustration of the woman’s neighbours who were rightly concerned after not seeing her for a couple of days, but while officers were not immediately at the scene, checks were being made with hospitals and ambulance colleagues to see if there was any knowledge of her whereabouts.
“That said, the woman’s neighbours’ actions should rightfully be highlighted as a shining example of looking out for the more vulnerable members of our communities, especially as we move into the winter months.”