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Patient dies after 4 hour wait for ambulance.

An ambulance service has apologised to the family of a pensioner who died after waiting nearly four hours for paramedics to arrive.

It took three hours 45 minutes for a crew to reach the home of the 81-year-old woman who called 999 complaining of chest pains.

The emergency call was made at around 8pm on Tuesday and the woman was still alive when she spoke to the control room again at 9.47pm but it took another two hours for an ambulance to arrive at her home in Clacton, Essex.

Paramedics then had to break into the home and, by the time they reached the woman, she had stopped breathing and could not be saved.

East of England Ambulance Service (EEAST) has launched an internal investigation into the incident.

Deputy chief executive, Sandy Brown, said: “Our sincere condolences and apologies go out to the patient's family and friends. We are truly sorry for the ambulance wait that occurred at this incident.

"We have publicly expressed how stretched the ambulance service is and the pressures our staff and the whole NHS have been under during the past few days. As a trust, we have experienced our busiest days ever and we know our partners in the hospitals are in the same situation."

Sandy Brown said that the service received more than 4,200 calls on January 2 and was also facing hospital handover delays, which, she said, "can prevent us from responding as quickly as we need to.”

She added: "Due to extremely high demand on the service and delays at accident and emergency units, we were not able to immediately dispatch an ambulance.

“A clinician in one of our control rooms made a welfare call and spoke to the patient at 9.47pm and an ambulance crew arrived at the address at 11.46pm.”

East of England Ambulance Service has previously said it has had to rely on taxis to take patients to hospital after struggling to cope with a surge in demand over the holiday period.